Cracking longevity science

Strategies to remain competitive in an aging world

Although still in its infancy, the longevity industry is seeing an influx of funding from investors, academic institutions, and governments. This ecosystem represents a growing set of players who are shifting away from the traditional disease-focused paradigm, instead addressing the root causes of aging. Learn how life sciences and health care organizations can develop longevity strategies to help them compete in a future where humans will live longer, healthier lives.

Living a 140-year long and healthy life

From the dawn of civilization, humankind has been enamored with the idea of “eternal life.” Though once considered a distant fantasy, restorative health is on its way to becoming a reality. Breakthroughs in the study of longevity—why humans age, how they age, and interventions to slow the aging process—are fueling the possibility that humans may surpass existing life expectancies and live into their 140s. We are beginning to see a paradigm shift from disease-focused treatments to those that address the underlying mechanisms of aging, biological systems, and wellness. In fact, a growing community of scientific researchers believe they have the tools to extend healthy human life, transforming health care as we know it today.

In the past 100 years, we have achieved groundbreaking milestones in the diagnosis and treatment of disease, which in turn have extended healthy life span. But success has been uneven. Despite exponential gains early on, the extension of life span has largely leveled off in the past 30 years. A deeper dive into different disease areas uncovers why: current care systems, which don’t consider aging as a disease, aren’t set up to target aging as its own endpoint.

With a growing cadre of scientists focused on understanding the process of aging itself, and entrepreneurs, investors, and biotech leaders launching innovative companies, we are at the cusp of a new multibillion-dollar longevity industry—an industry that will compete head-on with incumbent life sciences and health care organizations.

While increasing human health and life spans will have a profound impact on all aspects of society, this paper will concentrate on the implications for organizations. In this report, we’ll provide a brief introduction to the field of longevity science and then look at how organizations can facilitate and adapt to a future where humans live longer and healthier lives.


Health and life span: Where have we succeeded and fallen short?

The achievements and challenges of companies in extending life and health span can be evaluated using two recognized mortality metrics: Premature Years of Life Lost (PYLL or “life span”) and Years of Life with Disability (YLD or “health span”).

  • Life span – Total PYLL per disease category: Estimates the total magnitude of premature deaths (i.e., death at the age of 69 due to heart attack would be considered 10 years of premature life lost due to a cardiovascular disorder).
  • Health span – Total YLD per disease category: Estimates the total magnitude of disability years resulting from disease (i.e., the total number of years a patient lives with a disability or ill-health resulting from the underlying disease).

Therapeutic areas have experienced different levels of success in impacting PYLL and YLD over the past 15 years. Treatment advances for cancer and cardiovascular disease have been the primary contributors to life span improvement. Conversely, respiratory, neurological, musculoskeletal, and endocrine, nutritional, and metabolic (ENM) diseases have led to worsening life span outlooks—even making headlines as leading causes for decreasing life expectancy in the United States.

This begs the question—why do we see significant gains in certain therapeutic areas, while we face major challenges in others? Can longevity-focused concepts help improve the current status quo? Our analysis presents an the discrepancy across 10 therapeutic areas. The analysis uncovers two extreme scenarios—disease areas that are deteriorating and those that are improving.

Deteriorating therapeutic areas saw a reduction in both health span and life span, meaning more years of life with a disability as well as premature death. This is largely driven by worsening lifestyle behavior (e.g., increasing body mass index (BMI) and type 2 diabetes) and the growing elderly population (aging is the leading risk factor for neurological and musculoskeletal disorders).

Fortifying therapeutic areas saw the largest improvement in both life span and health span in the past 15 years, primarily due to progress in prevention and treatment.

The emerging longevity ecosystem

The longevity paradigm shift has led to the development of an interdisciplinary ecosystem that looks different from traditional health care models. It comprises a growing community of life sciences and health care and health tech companies focused on solutions that address underlying drivers of disease and aging.

Though still in its infancy, the longevity ecosystem is already attracting an influx of funding from investors, academic institutions, and governments. Our analysis shows that the top 50 longevity-focused companies raised more than $1 billion in venture funding as of 2020—a sizable amount that continues to rise due to the growing conviction that the longevity market could outstrip the existing health care market in the long run. In fact, we also expect to see a shift within existing health care spend away from “sick care” toward wellness and well-being. This will in turn strengthen the longevity ecosystem, presenting a unique opportunity for companies to collaborate and innovate across industries and move to the forefront of aging-related therapeutics, services, and technology.

Incumbent organizations are well positioned to evolve their business models and capitalize on the anticipated disruption of today’s therapeutics and services market. Whether it be concentrating on a specific hallmark of aging or developing a new solution capable of addressing a broad scope of conditions, it is time for organizations to place their bets.

Implications for the future

Targeting the root causes of aging and disease has the potential to revolutionize the world of health care as we know it, with many implications for incumbents. From startups, to multibillion-dollar pharmaceutical organizations, to regulatory agencies, a rich ecosystem of new and emerging stakeholders is defining the future of longevity.

Traditional innovation and care models will not cease to exist, but rather they will have less influence on how we think about and deploy health care in the future. To be sure, we may never be able to prevent all diseases, nor will we be able to detect all diseases early. However, as companies shift their mindsets and pick up the pace of innovation, we will be better at learning about and responding to human conditions and diseases of the future. This in turn will help extend healthy life span across populations.

Companies that develop a long-term longevity strategy will be in the best position to influence and shift the existing paradigm. Whether they pursue M&A to gain key know-how, partner with startups and academic institutions, or leverage their own core competencies, these companies will be better able to compete as they help bring about a future of aging and health in which humans live healthier and longer lives than ever before.

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Get in touch

Susan Dettmar

US Leader, M&A Consultative Services

Neal Batra

Principal | Deloitte Consulting LLP

Kushan Biswas

Senior manager | Mergers and Acquisitions

Tom Yang

Principal | Monitor Deloitte

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