Last August, we told you about Laura Deming, a New Zealand native who was home schooled before moving halfway around the world as a 12-year-old to work alongside Cynthia Kenyon, a renowned molecular biologist who specializes in the genetics of aging.
She didn’t stay long. At age 14, Deming began her college career at MIT. When she turned 16, she dropped out to join Peter Thiel’s two-year-old Thiel Fellowship program, which gives $100,000 to young people “who want to build new things.” By last August, when we profiled Deming, she had closed on $22 million in commitments for her second venture fund, which supports aging-related startups. She was 23.
Because Deming has always had an intriguing relationship with time, we weren’t all that surprised when she reached out to us late last week to let us know her San Francisco-based venture firm, The Longevity Fund, has now established a new accelerator program — one with backing from famed investor Marc Andreessen, the early-stage venture firm Felicis Ventures and other, unnamed investors.
Deming isn’t disclosing how much money will be invested through the accelerator, called Age 1, but she does say the pool of capital is distinct from the money she’s investing with Longevity Fund. She also says that Andreessen, Felicis and her other backers will serve as mentors to the companies that pass through the program.
Other notable details about Age 1: Deming says that she and her advisors — including serial entrepreneur Elad Gil, who most recently co-founded the genomics testing company Color Genomics — will be “quite flexible” when it comes to the stage of applicants. She says the bigger idea is to help them get to a significant “value inflection point” within four months, which is how long the program runs.
Instead of accepting startups serially, Age 1 will work with small batches of startups — between three and five at a time — and it’s accepting them right now on a rolling basis, with plans to present them to an invite-only group of investors on October 5 in the Bay Area. (Startups can apply here.)
Though there’s not necessarily a headquarters for the program, Age 1 will provide co-working space for companies that need it and, even more notably, it will invest $500,000 per startup — more than most accelerators are willing or able to plug into the startups with which they work.
What we don’t know: at what cost. Asked about the ownership stake that Age 1 expects in exchange for its checks and mentorship, Deming, over email, declines to say.
As for what Deming and company are looking for, she suggests the program is particularly interested in working with startups that are committed to addressing late-onset medical conditions relating to Alzheimer’s, heart disease, diabetes and more. Though they’re casting a wide net, she adds that “one of hundreds of things we’d be interested in seeing is more work on the role of the circadian or other developmental clocks in longevity.”
Whether Deming’s ability to nurture startups is as promising as her prodigious understanding of biology remains to be seen, but her venture record to date is encouraging. Though Longevity has a fairly limited number of portfolio companies thus far, one of them, the genome editing technology company Precision BioSciences, secured a partnership last month with food giant Cargill; the two are now working together on a new product to reduce saturated fat in canola oil.
Another portfolio company — UNITY Biotechnology, a company that’s trying to reverse aging through therapeutics — meanwhile closed on $55 million in Series C funding on Monday. It has raised more than $200 million at this point, including from Thiel’s Founders Fund, Jeff Bezos, Fidelity and ARCH Venture Partners.
To learn more about Deming, you might check out this TED talk she gave back in 2013.