Y Combinator is launching a biotech track

Y Combinator is pulling the curtains off of a new experiment, YC Bio. The idea is to fund early-stage life-sciences companies that are still in the lab phase, YC President Sam Altman wrote on the YC blog today. YC Bio’s first area of focus will be on healthspan and age-related disease.

“We think there’s an enormous opportunity to help people live healthier for longer, and that it could be one of the best ways to address our healthcare crisis,” Altman wrote.

For those unfamiliar with the idea of healthspan, it’s the amount of time someone is healthy rather than the amount of time they’re alive and potentially in bad health.

Similar to YC AI, companies in the YC Bio track will participate in YC’s traditional batch. But instead of taking 7 percent ownership in exchange for $120,000 in investment, YC will offer the biotech companies between $500,000 and $1 million for 10 to 20 percent ownership.

Because these companies will all still be in the lab phase, YC will offer them free lab space in partnership with a to-be-determined entity. YC Bio also will offer companies “a number of other special deals” and access to experts in the field.

YC backed its first biotech company in 2014, when Gingko Bioworks participated in the accelerator. At the time, Altman told TechCrunch’s Sarah Buhr that three things had started happening in biotech: “upcoming hyper growth, costs coming down to series-A scale, and cycle time coming down to something reasonable for a startup.”