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Spencer Health Solutions raises $43M to accelerate growth

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Spencer Health Solutions has raised $43 million to accelerate the growth of its medication adherence platform in global markets.

The health technology company is focused on improving patient engagement and medication adherence for clinical trials and commercial pharmaceutical programs, while also provider better support for patients at home.

Its spencer® medication dispensing technology, a data-driven platform which integrates pill dispensing, analytics, and telehealth technology, is currently used by more than 5,800 patients across the US, Canada and Europe.

Spencer Health Solutions announced it has successfully closed a Series D funding round, having raised an initial $43 million, with additional funding expected by the end of the year.

The latest cash injection is expected to support its continued growth in these markets and expand its global footprint with capital for devices, new operational team members, and sales and marketing resources. 

Commenting on the raise, Tom Rhoads, CEO of Spencer Health Solutions, said: “Our Series D will convert our debt to equity and bring in new capital to help us scale pharmaceutical company growth in clinical trials and patient support services from the home.”

“This round of funding reflects our progress in building partnerships with several major pharmaceutical companies, global clinical packagers, and regional and national specialty pharmacies. It will also help support and scale several major chronic care provider contracts recently awarded in US, Canada and Europe. It is an exciting time at Spencer Health Solutions.”

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UK body calls for more ageing research backing

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The British Society for Research on Ageing (BSRA) is calling for more public backing in the UK for research to help people stay healthier for longer, as an alternative to charities that support research on diseases.

The greatest risk factor for disease is ageing, but we have very little charitable support for research into how to slow ageing, the organisation warns.

Many diseases such as cancers and heart disease tragically shorten lives far too early, or like Alzheimer’s and arthritis, destroy quality of life for patients and carers. There is understandably huge public charitable support for more research. However, the greatest risk factor for those diseases, and even infectious diseases like COVID, is ageing.

Yet in comparison there is currently very little support for research to understand how we can slow ageing to prevent disease. This approach may be more productive in the long term to fight disease. Furthermore, keeping people healthier for longer, or avoiding chronic diseases all together, would be the most favourable outcome.

The UK population is ageing fast, putting pressure on the NHS and the economy. Despite this pressing problem all around us, there is no accessible way for people to support research into ageing in the UK. The BSRA aims to change that.

With a very small budget and almost completely run by volunteers, the BSRA has successfully funded several small research projects but progress needs to be accelerated. More funding is needed because it takes years to see the effects of ageing, so studies are long. Also ageing affects individuals in different ways, meaning that large numbers of people must be studied to make firm conclusions.

Therefore, there is an urgency to get studies funded and the BSRA has decided to launch an ambitious fundraising campaign to boost research into ageing. Initially, the Society aims to fund a series of one year research projects at the Masters degree level at universities across the UK and with plans to raise much more in the future to support longer and more ambitious projects that will impact the lives of the general public.

Chair of the BSRA, Prof David Weinkove from Durham University, says “The time is now to really get behind research into the biology of ageing. We have fantastic researchers across the country, but they are held back by a lack of funding. Evidence-based research is needed to understand how we people can stay healthier for longer, and to then we must make that knowledge available to as many people as possible”.

Dr Jed Lye says “This is a great opportunity for the public to help, for corporations to contribute, or philanthropists wanting a large impact with a relatively small donation; every £20,000 we raise can fund an entire year of research into ageing and longevity, and gets a budding scientist their research qualification.”

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Agetech World podcast: Why it’s time to stop talking about generations

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From post-war baby boomers to the current Generation Alphas, stage-of-life labels beloved of cultural commentators, researchers and marketers, will soon be a thing of the past, predicts the head of the globally influential UK National Innovation Centre for Ageing.

Researcher, teacher, writer and TEDx speaker, Professor Nic Palmarini, has told the latest Agetech World podcast he believes the arbitrary grouping of people born within a certain time frame and deemed to reflect the narrative of a particular period in world history, will no longer be a thing.

Click here to listen to the latest Agetech World podcast

Instead, the director of the NICA, said he expects to see a merging of the current peer groups to form one inter-generation, with no need for distinct categories.

“It is quite foolish to put cohorts who are born in very nearby years, but different years, different areas of the world, (and with) different experiences, to put them all together,” he said.

“We think that in the future there will be no more generations. We are literally thinking that there is a kind of fluidity on how we are interfacing our future society.

“My personal opinion, and again it is my opinion, but I think we are just going towards a sense of melting the generations one with the other and coming to one mega fluid generation where experiences are just more quickly flowing one to the other, not necessarily stopping at the station of each generation.

“And if you think, for example, what happened in the United States, where President Biden has been elected basically with the votes of the Gen Z, there is a sort of understanding of Gen Z and the Silent Generation (born up to the mid-1940s and including Joe Biden)…trusting each other, understanding each other, empowering each other, which I think is something we will see more and more often because, I guess, the only way to solve the main, or big issues, that we are seeing forward in our future…(is through) collaboration between the generations instead of framing the generations.”

He added there would always be some intergenerational conflict “which is good, because somehow it is making the generations in this case understand what could be the pain point that maybe others don’t see.”

The way to solve this discord he explained, was with collaboration.

The UK National Innovation Centre for Ageing is based at the Catalyst Newcastle Helix in the North East of England

“We know there is no other way. So I think that also this will probably lead us to a kind of inter-generation, as we call it.

“I keep on saying that the next generation won’t be called Alpha as they say. My point is it will be called ‘inter’ because it will be a generation made of many generations working together.”

Prof Palmarini was appointed director of the NICA in 2019. Headquartered in the North East of England, the NICA is jointly funded by the Medical Research Council and Newcastle University, and was set-up to work across academia, industry and the public to explore, test, and bring to market products which promote healthy ageing and wellbeing through life.

Prof Palmarini’s previous job was as head of AI for Healthy Ageing at IBM Research and AI Ethics Lead and Research Manager at the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab in Massachusetts in the US.

He has a decade of experience in research in supporting older adults’ autonomy and independence, and his internationally-recognised career has demonstrated his commitment to exploring the impact of technologies and their applications in the life of the ageing population and people with disabilities.

With the longevity sphere potentially worth trillions of pounds in the UK and worldwide, a major part of the NICA’s work is to convince industries, such as the big technology players, the health sector, entertainment, fashion, and financial services, of the importance of targeting age discrimination through collaboration, innovation, exchange and interaction.

Prof Palmarini told the podcast that society also needs to rethink ‘age’ and the concept of retirement, especially as people are living longer thanks to medical and scientific advances.

He has no plans to retire, he said. “I’m very biased because on one side, not my research side, my father is 93 and is working. He is a doctor and he keeps on going to work, he drives, he lives his life like it was 20 or 30 years ago, which obviously teaches me one thing, that we all need a purpose to be that way.

“So, how do I see myself? I can’t think myself out of being engaged in things that matter to me, and I am very good in putting myself in things that matter to me. So that is my everyday job. I am curious. My job is to understand what are the dynamics happening now – and in the future.

“I am quite good in spotting what are the things that could be meaningful in the future, hence my future will probably be what I am doing today for the next whatever years until I die.

“I haven’t thought about retirement. Again, I don’t have examples in my day-to-day life of retirement. I have examples of people living their own life, being relevant to themselves and to others, which is something still I think we have to sustain and push, not for everybody. Do not misunderstand me. There are people that need to stop. People that need to slow down in certain stages of their life.

“I am saying in general we tend to think of this idea of retirement, like stopping being part of a society because that is how retirement, from a narrative perspective, has been designed.

“I think we have to go against the stigma of retirement; you just watch birds and take long walks every day, which is absolutely wonderful and must be done by whoever wants to do it, but also I think this idea of giving back permanently to others in the process of life, is something that we should have to start thinking more consistently, and understand that working in later life could be a blessing, not a bad thing.”

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LongeVC: “Longevity will never be a magic pill that will make us younger”

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Gary Zmudze LongeVC

LongeVC CEO and founder Garri Zmudze speaks about the firm’s mission to create an ageless future with its support for innovative longevity tech companies. 

Investment firm, LongeVC has a portfolio of companies across the likes of consumer health, AI for drug discovery, biotech and gene therapy. Connecting them all is a shared mission to create an “ageless future”.

With the longevity and anti-ageing market expected to rise from $26.12 billion in 2022 to $44.92 billion by 2030, AgeTech World hears from LongeVC CEO and founding partner, Garri Zmudze about the investment landscape in this rapidly growing sector.

Zmudze first entered the biotech space while working in the banking industry in Switzerland. He became an early investor in Insilico Medicine, a leader in AI for drug discovery, after his friend and former classmate, Alex Zhavoronkov approached him.

It turned out to be a valuable investment for Zmudze but there was also a personal reason for turning his focus to biotech and longevity. Both his parents have suffered from age-related diseases. His father passed away from cancer while his mother has struggled with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s for the last 12 years.

Zmudze speaks about the misconceptions surrounding longevity, the latest trends that are piquing the interest of him and his team of investors and what he looks for in a company before investing.

AgeTech World: You have said that there is some misunderstanding among the public around what longevity is and how it differentiates itself from popular buzzwords like biohacking. Can you explain some of these misconceptions? 

Garri Zmudze: As I spend a lot of time in Miami, Florida, I have visited most of the so-called longevity clinics around the state. What I discovered there is a wild west. And what I mean by that is they’re giving patients peptides, exosomes and stem cells for very high prices.

However, from my perspective, it is not evidence-based and it can be harmful and dangerous for patients. Maybe not right now, but in the longer term, there can be consequences.

I believe that longevity must be standardised and must be promoted to a broader audience and explained in simple terms why biohacking can be dangerous for you. Nothing is proven. There is no hard evidence.

But, we have early therapeutics and we have more evidence-based approaches that can adjust and ultimately prolong a healthy human lifespan.

LongeVC says is investing in an “ageless future”. What does this concept mean to you and what is needed to get there? 

Longevity will never be a magic pill that will make us younger. We have to understand that it is a family of technologies and that’s what we’re pushing forward. That’s why one of our main focus is early diagnostics of age-related diseases.

I believe the whole system must be changed. When we talk about longevity, it’s not just therapeutics against age-related diseases or early-stage diagnostics, it’s a wider term. It includes new insurance plans – because of the Silver Tsunami – and new pension plans. There are a lot of [elements] that fit the topic of longevity.

We live longer and healthier, but pension plans and insurance plans cannot cover that. Nowadays, insurance plans in the US do not cover an expansive range of early-stage diagnostics at this stage. I believe that the whole paradigm must change for that.

What are some of the latest trends and opportunities in the longevity sector that you are particularly excited about? 

The biggest trend that I see and support is public clinics that are opening in Singapore in the National University of Singapore. The [Centre for Healthy Longevity is led by Professor Andrea Maier.

There is also Sheba Longevity Clinic [in Tel Aviv] that is led by Professor Tzipi Strauss and Professor Evelyn Bischof and where I’m a part of the executive board.

I believe that these types of projects will have a huge impact on the whole industry because first of all, they are free public hospitals that will generate a lot of data for research. I think that’s huge because before, that was a privilege mostly for wealthy people.

I think that’s the biggest trend and I’m a big supporter of it. I hope that there will be more and more public clinics around the globe.

In terms of LongeVC’s portfolio, what are the common threads that run through the companies that you invest in? 

All our portfolio companies are chosen in a way that fits our thesis. There are different pillars like early diagnostics, age-related therapeutics and different tech that enables those processes, including standardising longevity and AI for drug discovery.

I believe that the best indicator for the fund we have is that so far, for two years, we have had zero write-offs. Our portfolio is structured in a way that we have early diagnostics, therapeutics, AI for drug discovery and mental health applications.

Now, we are also focusing on ovarian ageing, fertility and reproduction. The main focus we will be having in the next 12 months is on mental health and female reproduction.

Where do fertility and reproductive health fit into longevity? 

Ovarian ageing and reproductive health is an important part of longevity. A lot of women dedicate their lives to careers and they may want a child after 40, for example, when there are additional risks.

This is something we want to [do]. We want to prolong reproductive age. I think that that’s important.

We recently appointed a new advisor, Professor Yousin Suh, who is a professor at Columbia University in New York. We are getting additional competencies on board in this field and making some early-stage investments.

What do you look for in the companies you invest in? 

We are not investing in something that slightly changes or slightly adjusts existing processes. We’re looking for innovations [and] breakthrough technologies.

We make our investment decisions based mostly on the team and the leadership because in the early stage, that is very important.

We also look for fundraising skills as it’s a very challenging environment nowadays.

We establish relationships with the tech transfer departments from the big universities. We’re getting access to the spin-offs from universities and other projects where our advisors are involved. These are the projects that we want to support and mostly they come from big universities.

These companies we invest in already have a team in place and they already have their IP protected. But mostly, it’s all about people. There are a lot of brilliant ideas that were not properly executed. At the early stage, that’s maybe the most important point.

Can you give a couple of examples of the innovative companies that LongeVC has invested in? 

For example, we [support] a company called Haut.AI. This is a very interesting B2B solution that is moving into B2C. It is AI that analyses your skin and offers personalised cosmetics for your type of skin.

There’s a brilliant team that already established business relationships with big brands like she’s Zaheda, Unilever and Ulta Beauty in the US, one of the biggest retailers. This is the dream team you want to have in your portfolio and this is a good example of consumer application.

Freedom Biosciences is a new-generation mental health application that is a spin-off out of Yale University.

They created a type of ketamine which follows on from the drug [developed] by Johnson & Johnson called Spravato.

Freedom Biosciences mix it with other compounds that prolong the efficacy and also [cause] less addiction. They also significantly reduce the price from around $700 for Spravato to [around] $100. IT will be accessible to a broader audience of patients and ultimately will be covered by insurance.

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