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Hevolution Foundation is Leading Saudi’s Drive for Longevity

We speak with Hevolution Foundation’s CEO, Mehmood Khan, about the foundation’s drive to put Saudi Arabia at the forefront of longevity and healthspan science.

By Inc.Arabia Staff
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Created four years ago by royal decree, Hevolution Foundation is at the forefront of Saudi Arabia’s drive to lead the longevity industry in the region and advance healthcare and wellness as a key pillar of Saudi’s Vision 2030.

The foundation, which has an annual budget of up to $1 billion, aims to promote healthy aging through funding, science, and investment. Trekking ahead of traditional investors with patient capital, it directly funds research in geroscience (the biology of aging) and biotech startups to advance aging research.

The aim: To get other investors on board to commercialize the technology and make it investable.

In addition to funding research, Hevolution is building a translational center in Saudi Arabia, where testing on aging can be conducted. It is also funding scientists and aging research to create human capital in the region.

“Hevolution isn't about longevity or living longer. It is about living healthier for as long as possible. And if we can compress the years we spend with illness and loss of function, that can have a significant impact on quality of life," Mehmood Khan, CEO of Hevolution Foundation tells Inc. Arabia.

Khan tells us that the advent of AI and high-performance computing are creating new opportunities for scientists to understand the aging process by creating data points that can be used to develop new biomarkers.

But their work is not all in the lab.

One of Hevolution’s aims is to create a conversation around longevity and healthspan by convening thought leaders in the field. In 2023, it hosted the Global Healthspan Summit, where it invited stakeholders from across the public and private spectrums as well as regulators to discuss the future of aging.

Khan, who is a strong proponent of the private sector, believes that it will play a large role in bringing longevity science to market once it’s been de-risked.

“Venture capital bridges the gap in capital between government funding and traditional business, but if their primary reason is to return a profit to their investors, they tend to be risk-averse. We are willing to take more risk and be more patient to make it attractive to traditional venture capital and the private sector,” he tells us.

Aging is not Inevitable

Good health has traditionally been seen as the absence of impairing disease. That perception is quickly changing to reflect a more positive outlook that focuses on wellness and vitality, as well as mental health. It’s not just about keeping people alive, but about allowing them to make meaningful contributions to society.

It also extends beyond just physical well-being to include mental, social, and spiritual elements.

One of the keys to addressing the aging crisis is understanding how humans age.

“There is a lot of evidence that the process of aging is not inevitable and it doesn’t occur at the same rate in people. It doesn’t even occur at the same rate in different parts of our body,” says Khan. To address this, he tells us, diagnostics and treatment need to be tailored to each individual.

This opens the door to precision and predictive medicine, which take a personalized approach to medicine, providing interventions that are proactive, predictive, and precise, in place of traditional medicine’s one-size-fits-all approach.

The Economic Impact of Aging

Khan, who is of Pakistani descent, is acutely aware of the unique challenges facing regions like MENA and South Asia. “Even though our populations are young, we’re experiencing the diseases of aging earlier. This suggests that we may have a much higher burden of disease than countries like the US or Europe,” he says.

Khan is clear that offsetting the economic impact of the aging population is not just about direct healthcare spending.

“Many countries in MENA have an informal way of taking care of the elderly. Young people who are in the workforce sometimes have to choose between taking care of parents and earning a living,” says Khan.

A study by Andrew Scott, Professor of Economics at London Business School, about the economics of health, found that addressing age-related diseases could create a significant financial impact on GDP. This includes a significant uptake in productivity because of the reduction of sick days, an extended period of work, and pushing back premature retirement.

“60% of caregivers around the world are women, so this has a disproportionate impact on the female workforce and furthers gender bias. Almost two-thirds of the time, women have to choose between caring for a mother or mother-in-law and staying in the workforce. This is especially true in MENA, where I suspect the percentage might be higher,” he tells us.

This article was first published in the May/June issue of Inc. Arabia's digital magazine. To read the full magazine, click here.  

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