Human Longevity seeks new life with proposed SPAC deal

Despite a looming recession and a recently bleak outlook for the success of SPAC deals, investors are moving ahead with a plan to take public a company that has had its eyes on the long haul since its inception.

Human Longevity, with its goal of helping people live past age 100, has inked a deal valued at $1 billion with a blank-check company to grab a spot on the New York Stock Exchange. 

However, the investor group, dubbed Freedom Acquisition I, offered a caveat upfront about the non-binding deal: “There can be no assurance that a definitive agreement will be entered into or that the proposed transaction will be consummated.”

That comes after a flood of biotech IPOs in 2021 saw their stock prices fall in the months that followed. Other companies have called off their plans to go public altogether, with many citing current market conditions that have been upended by a continuing COVID-19 pandemic, Russia’s war in Ukraine and lingering instability across the global supply chain.

Freedom was co-founded by Tidjane Thiam, former CEO of the Swiss bank Credit Suisse; Adam Gishen, a former Credit Suisse senior advisor and Abhishek Bhatia, former CEO of the Singaporean division at the Hong Kong-based FWD Insurance. It raised $300 million in February 2021 through its own IPO.

Now, Freedom aims to combine with Human Longevity to help the company expand the reach of its clinics in the U.S. and internationally.

Through its membership programs—once priced as high as $50,000 and more recently offering a platinum-level package in the lower five-figure range, according to a report from Diagnostics World—Human Longevity provides full-body MRI scans in a “spa-like” setting as well as whole-genome sequencing and regular blood tests, advertising the chance to catch a range of age-related diseases early, such as cancer.

The company’s clinics also supply primary care coverage and personalized guides on nutrition and lifestyle habits. Founded in 2013 by J. Craig Venter, who helped establish the first sequences of the human genome, Human Longevity says it has invested more than $500 million in R&D into artificial intelligence-driven programs to help predict the onset of chronic conditions. 

Human Longevity once raised $220 million in a 2016 venture capital round backed by Celgene and Illumina, which pushed the company’s valuation past $1.2 billion. However, by late 2018, its value would plummet by as much as 80%, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal, following the departure of several leaders and staff. Its most recent series C fundraising collected just $30 million in November 2019.

The company is led by Executive Chairman Wei-Wu He and President David Karow. Human Longevity sued Venter and his eponymous J. Craig Venter Institute in 2018, accusing the co-founder of sharing company secrets with competitors. 

But time may heal all wounds, as that legal dispute didn’t stop Venter from being included in this week’s SPAC deal announcement: “This is an exciting development for HLI and should allow the company to expand its influence in changing how medicine is practiced … Up to 50% of self-described healthy individuals who have gone through the HLI Health clinics have benefited from early diagnosis of conditions, many of which have been lifesaving,” he said in a statement. “I am proud of what HLI has accomplished to date and look forward to an exciting future.”

Sealing the deal with Freedom depends on completing due diligence, as well as approval by both boards of directors. The companies said they plan to pitch a final agreement for shareholder approval in the first quarter of 2023, which could end up transferring as much as $345 million to Human Longevity’s coffers.