May 16, 2023 - Health

Coinbase CEO's pharma startup raises $40 million to reverse aging

Animated illustration of a clock hand in the shape of a person spinning counterclockwise

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

NewLimit, a longevity pharma startup co-founded by Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong and former Google Ventures partner Blake Byers, on Tuesday announced that it's raised $40 million in Series A funding.

The big picture: There's an old VC joke about all the big companies that would be rendered worthless if just one could develop Star Trek-style teleportation. Now that's getting a biotech spin.

Details: The company previously raised $105 million from its co-founders, as announced in late 2021.

  • New investors are Dimension, Founders Fund, Kleiner Perkins, Eric Schmidt, Elad Gil, Garry Tan and Fred Ehrsam.
  • Byers says the outside investment is intended to be a signal that "this company isn't supposed to be a nonprofit Blake and Brian research institute." Instead, it wants to be a drug developer and boost its small 17-person team by up to 10 more employees by year end.

What it does: In short, NewLimit wants to reverse cellular aging.

  • To do so, it seeks to use new epigenetics tools to "reprogram" cells so that they act younger, with an initial focus on T-cells. Not only could this increase quality of life as people age, but it also could prevent the development of diseases like cancer.
  • Byers notes that humans already reprogram their cells, in a way, via reproduction; adding that newborn cells are always zero days old, no matter the age of their parents.
  • He adds that the giant challenge for Newlimit is to shrink the functional performance delta between actual young cells and reprogrammed older ones.

Yes, this is a massive moonshot. Armstrong acknowledges the long odds of NewLimit's ambition, but says the reward is worth the risk.

  • "Think of how many dollars are spent trying to figure out treatments for major diseases, most of which are in some way correlated to aging," Armstrong says. "It would be a huge success if you could wipe out even one of those disease categories, so think about how exciting it is to go after something even more fundamental."
  • One thing Armstrong doesn't particularly want to discuss, however, is the suggestion that NewLimit's ultimate mission is immortality. Instead, his frame is to "radically expand human healthspans."

The bottom line: We wanted flying cars. Instead we may get longer life.

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