Some ideas are easier to pitch to investors than others. While there is a well-established path from seed funding to exit for web startups, genomics plays with big ambitions require investors with deep pockets and an appetite for risk. Bryan Johnson seemingly has both and has set up a $100 million fund with the objective of turning "crazy" ideas into "viable" businesses.
Johnson has already used some of the money to help J. Craig Venter's life extension venture, Human Longevity, get started and he is now on the hunt for more startups with oversized ambitions. The fund's scope extends beyond healthcare research--another early investment wants to mine precious metals from asteroids--but the potential for omics data to tackle aging and disease puts the field squarely in its wheelhouse.
The plan is to invest in big ideas with the potential to dramatically improve quality of life. Eliminating some of the technical constraints on drug discovery and development would be a start. "We are hampered by structural deficiencies in research, the interpretation and sharing of data, as well as testing and discovery of new treatments," Johnson wrote in a post to unveil the fund. "We want to use [operating system]-level thinking to redefine medical discovery and cure aging."
Johnson is using $100 million of his own money--which he made by selling credit card processing firm Braintree for $800 million--for the fund. The investment in Human Longevity gives an indication of how the lofty ambitions behind the fund will translate into real-world projects. Venter founded Human Longevity earlier this year with two of Illumina's ($ILMN) HiSeq X Ten sequencing systems and ambitions to extend human life spans to 120 years.