Pfizer-backed VitaDAO spins out biotech company

VitaDAO is announcing the launch of Matrix Biosciences, a biotechnology company led by University of Rochester anti-aging researcher Vera Gorbunova. The launch comes with $300,000 in initial financing, with more funding to come in early 2024. 

The company will expand on Gorbunova’s research on the long life spans and cancer resistance of naked mole rats and examine whether a compound found in the rats could improve human lifespan.

Launched in 2021, VitaDAO funds “longevity” research aimed at extending human life. The DAO currently funds 20 projects, primarily focused on potential “moonshot” contributions to longevity science. Todd White, a VitaDAO core contributor, compared the DAO to an endowment fund, because members don’t take a profit from the research and all revenue is sent to the DAO treasury to fund other projects.

The DAO closed a $4 million funding round earlier this year, headlined by an investment from Pfizer Ventures.

VitaDAO invests in “valley of death”-stage ideas where research is still unproven, White said, adding that Pfizer once put significant resources into an early-stage investment team but judged such investments too risky before investing in VitaDAO.

“They realized we were doing what they were trying to do, but we were doing it better and at a fraction of the cost. And so this was kind of this real sort of Web3 awakening for Pfizer,” White said.

Being a community of researchers, VitaDAO has positioned itself within the “decentralized science” movement and a growing interest in DAOs as research funding tools. 

White said the DAO has struggled to ingratiate itself into the university milieu as blockchain technology struggles to rehab its image in the wake of the FTX collapse. But White feels like the niche field of longevity research shares an ethos with crypto.

Both worlds believe “we’re not going to go through this traditional thing. This is stupid. There’s a whole bunch of impediments here,” White said. “We’re retesting all the original assumptions.”

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