VitaDAO wants to democratize biotechVitaDAO will aim to fund longevity research, give its members ownership of the resulting IP, and allow members to vote on the direction of the organization.
Few would argue that the drug development process is efficient. Even as the technology surrounding the process gets better and cheaper, the time and expense required to develop a drug is only increasing. This phenomenon is so well-characterized it has its own term, Eroom’s Law, which can be thought of as the reverse of Moore’s Law.
However, few alternatives have been proposed, let alone attempted. Most often those alternatives just tweak one part of the process in its current form, for example, lowering regulatory barriers or utilizing AI for target discovery. However, it’s possible that a more disruptive system will be needed.
“What would insulin look like if it was collectively owned and funded by diabetics?”
This question was posed to me by Tyler Golato, Chief Scientist and co-founder of Molecule, as I interviewed him about the upcoming launch of VitaDAO. Molecule is a company in the traditional sense which aims to launch organizations which are anything but traditional.
“[VitaDAO aims to be] a membership organization with a flat organizational structure that works to support the development of longevity therapeutics, where all of the members collectively govern those decisions, govern a treasury, and govern how that treasury is distributed,” says Tyler. The last few years have seen the rise of decentralized autonomous organizations, called DAOs, which is where the name VitaDAO is derived from.
These organizations are built on blockchain technology, the same technology that Bitcoin uses. However, Bitcoin’s blockchain serves as a ledger to record transactions of Bitcoin between users. DAOs use other blockchains, most often Ethereum, to record things like voting records and membership, which are usually represented by a token specific to the DAO. As a proof-of-concept, DAOs have already been quite successful in the cryptocurrency space, with many DAOs currently valued at greater than a billion dollars each.
This new organizational structure has been a large part of their success. Their decentralization on the blockchain has profound effects on trust, truth, and power. In general terms, those with power are immensely incentivized to use it for their own benefit. When power is centralized, so too are the benefactors of the power holders’ decisions. An example of this played out recently in the WallStreetBets saga as Robinhood shut down trading of Gamestop stock to the benefit of hedge funds, even at the detriment of its users. However, the effects of this incentive structure can be seen in many places, including in the price of insulin.
Decentralizing on the blockchain specifically provides additional advantages. Even if the CEO of a company distributed decision making equally among all its employees, that could be nothing more than words. It can be taken back, it can be implemented in a way that is unfair, and, in the end, someone still needs to count the votes. Hard coding and recording these things on the blockchain provides an absolute truth to agree on, one which members can trust won’t be overturned. The “autonomous” aspect provides further benefits by efficiently cutting out middlemen where things can be done by software instead.
How is VitaDAO membership decided?
Anyone will be able join the DAO through a couple of different mechanisms. Basically, anyone can join us by contributing funds in which they would receive tokens or by contributing work. For example, a service provider or contract research organization could also join the DAO by providing preclinical development services, running qPCR experiments, etc. in exchange for a certain number of Vita tokens.
These tokens are then valuable because they allow members to engage in governance functions within the DAO itself. Governance functions will including things like deciding on how the treasury spends its money, what intellectual property strategy looks like, how many projects should be funded over a certain period, and how projects are evaluated. At first, the value of those tokens is based only on their power to govern the DAO. But as Tyler explains, “those tokens themselves ideally, in the long-term, also begin to reflect the value of the assets that VitaDAO has within its portfolios.”
Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs)
The assets that will someday be potentially owned by VitaDAO also benefit from being on the blockchain. Coincidentally, the technology Molecule has been working on to bring this into reality has been making headlines recently in the world of art. NFTs represent items, whether that’s digital or real-world, on the blockchain and usually contain some type of signature to verify their authenticity. While VitaDAO won’t be trading in fine art, it will be utilizing NFT technology to represent any intellectual property and data it owns. These NFTs can then only be moved with approval from the DAO. They also will have other interesting use cases, stemming from the fact they are programmable, that wouldn’t apply if they were owned only in the traditional sense.
The decisions before the decisions
The most controversial time in the lifespan of a DAO is before its launch, and VitaDAO has not yet launched. A DAO cannot be created from thin air; it must be carefully set up before it can run on its own. Molecule and its team of advisors, which includes figures like Aubrey de Grey and LEAF’s own Keith Comito, have put together working groups to decide how the DAO will operate initially. Many of these decisions can ultimately be changed later through proposals and votes by DAO members, but the way in which the DAO is initially set up will still be critical to its success. The working groups include various aspects of the project such as legal (i.e. how to link IP to NFTs), tokenomics (i.e. details on token fundraising and distribution), and governance (i.e. how to organize proposals and voting). While the launch date has not yet been set, they hope to finalize and release the starting conditions of the DAO by the third week of April, 2021.
We had the opportunity to interview Tyler Golato about VitaDAO. If you would prefer to read the interview, we have also provided a transcription of the interview at the end of this article.
VitaDAO will be the first of its kind, not just for Molecule, but in the history biotech. The combination of multiple disruptive strategies (DAOs, NFTs, longevity research) provides a great deal of potential to compound on one another, but also makes it a particularly unstable endeavor. The most controversial stage of a DAO may be right before launch, but the riskiest moment is right after, when the project is officially transferred into the hands of the community. It will be the community who ultimately determine the success of the DAO. In drug development, this requires a strong comprehension of many complex topics, not only the research, but regulatory and commercialization aspects as well. More than anything, the community will need a lot of patience and a high tolerance for failure if the history of drug development is any indication.
Undoubtedly, VitaDAO is an experiment worth conducting. There are a lot of reasons to be optimistic for VitaDAO’s success. Beyond that, the more diverse approaches taken in translating longevity research, the more likely it is one will bring treatments to the general population.You can keep up with Tyler Golato and VitaDAO’s progress on Discord, Website, Twitter, Telegram group, Telegram announcement channel, and Medium. Whitepaper (v0.1): https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1ua7We98enYYI7pN9FYh5pJLuxqeZaVdf
For those wishing to help get involved: https://forms.gle/TAtLc4tAhqymRJdy6
I’m here with Tyler Golato of Molecule to talk about VitaDAO, an organization aiming to do longevity biotech by democracy. Tyler, first, it’s great to meet you, and thanks for taking the time to do this interview. How are you doing?
Great, thanks so much for having me, really appreciate the opportunity to chat with you.
So could you could you talk about your role a little bit and what that is within this new company VitaDAO?
My name is Tyler. As I mentioned, I’m the Chief Scientific Officer and co-founder of Molecule, which is a traditional company whose mission is to decentralize and democratize the drug development process. Over the past couple of years, we’ve been exploring different structures and processes, legal frameworks, and technological frameworks to try to facilitate what you can call a slightly more open source, more collaborative way of both funding and developing therapeutics, one that maybe bridges the traditional, monopolistic patent system with a more open-source future but without compromising the ability to file for intellectual property and therefore sacrificing the ability to actually effectively commercialize drugs. Just one small point on that: there’s been a lot of movement recently in the therapeutic development space, thinking about more open source frameworks for developing drugs, things like the Open Source Pharma Consortium, for example. But one of the areas where that that space has really struggled is if you, for example, have a group of scientists develop a therapeutic in an open source way, and you have a bunch of people committing data to a GitHub repository, it becomes very difficult to incentivize the actual commercial development of that therapeutic, because you often lack the market exclusivity that would be a sufficient incentive for those things. So, Molecule has really been trying to think about how to bridge these two different sides: the current system and a more open source system. One of the first experiments in that in that framework is this concept of VitaDAO, which is not a traditional company. It’s a decentralized, autonomous organization, which might be a term that I would imagine over the next year, people are going to be hearing a lot more of the same way a lot of people are hearing about NFTs now; two years ago, that was a super fringy technology. The goal of VitaDAO is really to democratize access to longevity, therapeutics development and try to create new structures to unlock early-stage innovation within the context of preclinical longevity, therapeutics development, particularly which is happening at universities and is in a pre-startup stage, and figure out ways to allow members of the public, also experts, anyone with a general interest in longevity to become actively involved in supporting that therapeutic’s development, or any therapeutic’s development, in a really engaging and an active way. So, trying to find strength within a community that collectively funds, the development of these therapeutics, and then an exchange that VitaDAO, which you can think of as a membership collective or a membership organization will own the intellectual property that’s generated by those those projects and the members of that organization with guidance from industry experts, who can they can engage by many different mechanisms, will play a strong governance role, and how that is actually commercialized, how it might be licensed, if IP is generated from it, for example. So, it’s not just an experiment; that shouldn’t be seen as the goal, but it really is a first experiment with these new structures and how they might be able to promote innovation in the preclinical development space.
So, Molecule is what people would think of as a typical centralized company but with the goal of creating decentralized companies and VitaDAO being one specific to longevity.
At the moment, Molecule is traditional centralized company. Our goal is to progressively decentralize over time. At the moment, it’s a relatively small operation. We do actually have a lot of people who help us from around the world, a lot of advisors, we have developers who work with us from all over the world, and there certainly are some decentralized components to our company, but at the moment, we are still quite centralized.
Yeah, it’s a really complex topic for people not familiar in this space. I tried to explain VitaDAO to my fiance earlier this week. And she has no experience in the cryptocurrency world. It was really, really hard.
This is something that we struggle with a lot at Molecule, and it’s something that I think is going to become easier over time. Because even in the past year, a lot of these concepts have become a lot more mainstream they were a few years ago, but structurally, it’s a different way of thinking about organizations, it’s a different way of thinking about things like intellectual property, both advantages and risks in this sense, there’s quite a few innovations being stacked on top of each other. That can be a strength in some cases, but it could also create a little bit of a barrier to entry in terms of maybe someone’s ability to rapidly understand what what we’re doing, I think maybe one of the easiest ways to to tell someone about it. If you want to move all of the technical jargon away into the back end, a really simple way to think about it would be that it’s a membership organization that works to support the development of longevity therapeutics, where all of the members collectively govern those decisions, govern a treasury and how that treasury is distributed with a flat organizational structure.
I think that’s a really good top-line way to explain it, but it’s built on this background in the world of cryptocurrency, and I’m sure plenty of our readers are well versed in that space, we’ll get to a little bit later, a lot of overlap between longevity and cryptocurrency. Bitcoin price is skyrocketing right now, NFTs are making headlines left and right, but if that’s all the exposure people have had, before we even get into the weeds of VitaDAO, how would you introduce longevity enthusiasts to the world of cryptocurrency?
So there’s a couple of key differentiations to make here. There’s a lot of terminology that’s thrown around interchangeably. You have things like cryptocurrency, you have things like blockchain, you have things like token economics, for example. All these things are tied together through this background of blockchain, which you can think of as at its simplest, at its most reduced, just to be a database system, that would be a really simplified way to describe it. And then you have things like, for example, the Ethereum blockchain, where individual cells within that database become programmable through things like smart contracts, for example, and these have lots of different implications. And then beyond that, cryptocurrencies are the transactors of value within any of these databases that are exchanging information or keeping track of transactions. Cryptocurrencies are something that allow you to exchange value or send currency, for example, to somebody in a decentralized and trustless way that’s not managed through a bank or a centralized authority in some way. The blockchain space, the cryptocurrency space is really interesting, because everyone has a slightly different conceptualization around these technologies, what their benefits are, but really, one of the things that the space has excelled in tremendously, is creating really interesting incentive structures, often through what you could call a subfield of economics, which is called token economics. Token economics, or a token in the context of the blockchain space, so the cryptocurrency space, can be thought about as a unit that can allow someone to to do something. I mean, so it could be you can have a token for governance, for example, where by interacting with a particular blockchain, and let’s say, burning a token that I’ve received, I can cast a vote, for example, or you can have tokens that represent ownership or something. NFTs are non-fungible tokens, they’re tokens that can represent a real world asset and they’re non fungible in that they’re not divisible in the same way that something like a Bitcoin is, which you can divide many, many times. That’s really useful because it means that you can represent something that’s truly unique with that token, but so there’s this whole decentralized finance space, this whole really interesting economic engineering experiment that’s going on right now in the context of the cryptocurrency and blockchain space. There’s a lot of innovation happening that I think, at the moment is perceived to be quite superficial. And when I say superficial, I mean, if you’re not deep within that space, what you would probably look at and say is like, what is going on? Where is all this value being created? This must be a massive bubble, what is happening within? That we’re hedging against the dollar. Yeah, exactly. It’s magic internet money. To be completely fair, there’s a lot of truth to a lot of that, there are a lot of projects in the space. I mean, there’s a lot of good projects in the space. But there’s also, because of the space that fundamentally lacks a high degree of regulation, you also have people who are invariably exploiting that. There’s a lot of hype around it, there’s a lot of people FOMOing into the space that maybe don’t necessarily understand what they’re doing. They just look at charts and they say, cool, chart goes up, I buy in, I make money. These are things that maybe are quite relevant right now and maybe served to bring people into the space. But the real innovation that comes from this space lies in the technology and what it’s capable of unlocking. Something like a smart contract, for example, is such a profoundly powerful piece of technology, that a lot of people don’t fundamentally understand the implications of yet, especially in terms of creating things like decentralized systems where you can basically set something up to happen, and there’s a verified way that it happens. If it does go that way, it’s almost the point where you could replace lawyers, for example, and have a huge amount of automation on different processes, the way that people interact. Yeah, I don’t want to go super deep.
So is it fair to say, maybe, rather than characterize, VitaDAO, as in the cryptocurrency space, maybe a better way to put it would be in the blockchain space?
Yeah, I think that’s a better way to put it.
Some of the key benefits, I think which you touched on a little bit there, of being in this blockchain space, is cutting out the middleman. In a lot of cases, you can think of the blockchain as it’s been described to me, and my experience is very surface level, as you can kind of think of it as like a automated decentralized ledger of transactions. There’s various other benefits to having that process be on the blockchain. We’ve also mentioned decentralization a couple times, but I don’t think that term is necessarily intuitive to people who aren’t in the space. So just, we don’t spend too much time on it, but, what is decentralization? And why is that a benefit? Why is that a pro?
Yeah, so I mean, if you think about conventional company structures, conventional hierarchies, right, you typically have some centralized power. Then maybe you have, if you think about like an organizational chart, for example, you have someone at the top and then people underneath of them. If you think about the centralization, it’s having imagine, you know, all of these elements, all these individuals or nodes or servers, however, you want to think about this being connected in some way with a high level of redundancy, and no way of anyone to exploit the system, leverage it or exert more of a centralized authority or power over that organization. I think the reason that VitaDAO, for example, is why decentralization is attractive is because we’re trying to create, really this idea of a democratic drug development process. It’s not just that blockchain, it’s not just this cool blockchain is a nice way to do this or something. It’s that the technology is actually the thing that makes that an absolute truth, right. So, it’s not like saying, cool, I’m going to set up this flat organization, and people must take my word on it, that it’s a flat organization. It’s the fact that it’s a flat organization is actually baked into the technology itself. And nobody has the ability to override that, which is a particularly interesting concept. It’s when you get into token based voting, for example, it really, you know, it means to actually trigger a smart contract to make a decision like to distribute funds, for example, there must be a technological consensus reached by people actually interacting with a smart contract on the blockchain. So this becomes extremely powerful in preventing, let’s say bad actors or people from potentially trying to create certain power structures within an organization. But yeah, decentralization is particularly powerful in my opinion for its democratizing effect and its ability to distribute power very, very broadly. And therefore I think the thinking is around that, that if you distribute power very broadly, and if you have a really egalitarian structure, the outcomes tend to start to serve everyone better instead of just a few central people who might be leveraging their power.
Yeah, yeah, I think a really recent current event, I think, illustrated this really well, where if you followed the whole WallStreetBets saga, RobinHood is a great example of this centralized company where just power is kind of concentrated in this place, and they are actually able to shut down trading to their users, and in some cases, even sell some of the WallStreetBets users’ stocks for them without their permission, which is not something that could happen on the blockchain. But we could get really, really deep if we wanted to on that. Let’s get back to VitaDAO, specifically. So there’s actually been quite a lot of overlap between the longevity space and the blockchain, like, especially with a lot of big donations have come from some big names, such as Vitalik Buterin, who’s one of the if not the biggest name in the space, has made some donations. What do you see as some of the parallels between the two? And why do they kind of attract similar thinkers?
Yeah, I mean, I think they both represent extremely disruptive ways of thinking, I think they’re both trying to pioneer a different framework for the for the future, maybe relative to the status quo. One of the reasons that I was attracted to biogerontology, for example, was that, you know, previously, I was working in oncology and experimental therapeutics in the context of developing drugs for various cancers, pancreatic cancer, glioblastoma, and we were working on mechanisms of chemotherapy resistance. Over time, I found that in the context of the sciences, I was becoming quite frustrated with the way that we were approaching individual disease areas. So this idea of silos, let’s treat breast cancer, let’s treat pancreatic cancer, let’s treat a single driver of mutation in the context of one cancer. But aging research and biogerontology and longevity were really attractive because of this idea. Well, how about we understand DNA damage and repair at a higher level and figure out ways to actually intervene in that process? So you could prevent all mutations, for example. I think you have a lot of dreamers in the field, you also have your transhumanist communities. The longevity space goes from very academic to very fringy, and I love the space for that. And I think you find the same in crypto, you have your developers and your technology people and you have your dreamers, but they’re all tied together by this by this belief that there’s a better future that technology can help us engineer. And yeah, I think there’s definitely a natural overlap between between the two spaces.
I would also add, they both kind of have a bit of a chip on their shoulder and have faced a lot of resistance from the status quo that traditional finance and traditional disease-specific approaches to medicine. So like, personality wise, right, it’s a really great match between the two. But what about like in terms of actual functionality, like in general terms, what is VitaDAO and why is it complimentary? Why is longevity and the blockchain complimentary when you bring them together?
You could start a conventional biotech company, or you could start a longevity fund, for example, with a similar values and mission, in terms of its ability to create advanced preclinical stage, longevity therapeutics. What you couldn’t do with those structures is have really, really broad participation from the general public. One of the things that blockchain allows you to do, or really the the tokenomics around VitaDAO or this idea of creating this decentralized structure is that it allows you to tap in very actively to a very large community of enthusiasts of experts in the field, people who might want to get involved in the day to day governance. One of the things from an incentive structure that decentralized communities have been really good at, I think you can see it. I mean, I don’t want to go too deep into the NFT space right now in general, but there’s a huge effect that can be gained by bringing together 2, 3, 4,000, 10,000 people around around a common cause. That is very difficult to do with a typical start-up structure or a funding structure or something like that. I think the best way to think about it is that blockchain or cryptocurrency is something that from a framework perspective, allows you to rather easily spin up a decentralized organization where you have power distributed among many different people with a common goal. That’s the primary reason for using blockchain technology in this context. Now, there’s other reasons as well, which I think we’ll get into later if we began to talk a little bit about NFT’s and maybe the the device space. But you know, one of the things that we’ve seen over the past 20 years in the context of drug development and biopharma R&D in general, is that there’s really this innovation crisis that’s happening. Our technology for drug discovery is getting better and better. There’s a term called Eroom’s law, which is Moore’s Law backwards, it was coined by someone called Jack Scannell, who described this interesting problem around innovation. You have, technology getting much cheaper, your ability to sequence the genome has gotten exponentially cheaper, even outpaced Moore’s Law, yet, we’re discovering less drugs and drug development is becoming more and more expensive. And we believe that part of the reason for this comes down to actually the way that both the organizational and business structures and intellectual property structures exist in drug development in a lot of cases and the incentives that exist. So VitaDAO is really this idea that, we’re not 100% sure yet, if this is a better way to develop drugs than the status quo. But it’s certainly a different way, it’s a way that really deserves to be tried, in our opinion. It will not be without problems, I think it would be really fair for someone to say that there’s also very good reasons to have centralization, that there’s very good reasons to have leadership or clear leadership and clear decision making abilities within an organization. But we’re really excited to see how this experiment plays out. And if we’re able to really tap into a powerful community that’s able to do things that are more quickly and more agile led than the conventional biopharma space would be able to.
Yeah, you’d have a tough time arguing that the current drug development process is efficient, or that it’s been done in the best way possible, and so this is a dramatically different way to do it. The DAO, so the second half of VitaDAO, I don’t think we’ve actually defined that yet. That’s a decentralized autonomic organization. So more specifically, how does the DAO work?
Yeah, so basically, anyone can join the DAO, they can join the DAO through a couple of different mechanisms. One mechanism is by contributing funds to the DAO and receiving tokens, and those tokens allow members to engage in governance functions within the DAO itself. And a governance function could be anything from, let’s say, deciding on how the treasury, for example, spends its money in the context of VitaDAO, there’s a lot of different decisions that someone could help, you know, might engage in on things like, you know, what intellectual property strategy looks like, how many projects should be funded over a certain period, how projects are evaluated. But basically, anyone can join us by contributing funds in which they would receive tokens or by contributing work. And so for example, another laboratory or a service provider or contract research organization, could also join the DAO by saying we will provide you with preclinical development services, we will run qPCR experiments for you or something like that, in exchange for a certain number of Vita tokens, and those tokens themselves can ideally, in the long term, begin to reflect the value of the assets that VitaDAO has within its portfolios. So, beyond just serving as purely as a utility for governance, if VitaDAO was very successful over the next 10 years, it might go on to fund 50 to 100 different projects and therefore hold within that DAO the IP around many different projects that have been funded. And by having that that token or being a member, everything within that DAO was collectively owned by by all the members. So, it creates a very efficient way to be able to deploy capital, quickly get things done and support a common cause for which DAOs are typically used. They’ve been used for a long time in the context of creating pools to be able to develop new applications on Ethereum, for example, where a bunch of people come together, and they say “we want to bring together a huge community of developers, tap into all their skills to co-develop software together, decide how that software is governed, and all collectively benefit from the software that’s created.” They’ve also been used as investment vehicles in the context of the NFT art space. You have things like Flamingo DAO, for example, where you have a bunch of people pulling together money and now they’re using this as a fund to purchase different pieces of art. And all the members get to collectively vote on what art is purchased, when it should be sold, how it should be priced. So it has this ability to democratize certain structures that have typically been inaccessible to a lot of people, for example, something like a fund, and also allow people to participate in those structures, without needing to have a ridiculous amount of capital at hand. If I said my goal is to make sure that new startups are created in the longevity landscape around longevity therapeutics, I’m going to go out and raise for a longevity fund or biotech fund, the amount of capital that I would need to have access to do that is really, really significant compared to what most people would be able to do.
So, being a member of a DAO is kind of like owning stock in a company, if the stock actually gave you power over the direction of that company.
That’s the fundamental difference and the thing to differentiate and where the power also lies as well. It would be any of the successes or benefits that are ultimately derived in the long run from VitaDAO are a function of the effort of its community and its members and not a manager in a centralized company, who’s maybe behaving in a different way than stockholders might want or incentivized quite differently. So, that’s a good way to think about it.
So the other key tool in VitaDAO’s toolbox that we’ve briefly skimmed on but haven’t gone in depth on would be the NFTs. These are non-fungible tokens. And these are a super hot topic right now. Well, there’s definitely a lot of hype, I won’t say too much, but there’s definitely a lot of hype right now. And if you’re just following that…
I think there’s too much. I will say there’s too much hype around it. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it’s incredible. But yeah, it’s crazy.
Well, if you’re just following the news, what these probably seem like is tools for celebrities to sell virtual stuff to their fans, right? I’ve kind of had it described to me as a parallel to an autograph. Autographing an item to make it more special, and then sell it, which doesn’t really seem to fit with what we’ve been discussing so far with VitaDAO. So how will VitaDAO utilize NFTs?
So I mean, I think if you really didn’t look into the space at all, it could just seem like people were selling JPEGs for $7 million, and just seem like this completely crazy thing that makes absolutely no sense. I’ll touch on the art use case quickly, maybe just because I think it’s valuable for people to understand this, but what it really has to do with is ownership, right? It’s around ownership of something that has a certain scarcity or a certain rarity. So for example, in the context of digital art, it could be thought of as something like a certificate of authenticity, but it’s something that can also be tied to really, really powerful economic mechanisms. For example, every time that NFT trades hands, for example, even in secondary markets, or from a sale that’s ongoing, there could be programmatically in the smart contract that’s linked to that NFT, a fee that’s always going back to the original creator. It’s a way to create, I think, in its most optimistic use case, it’s a way to create really fair revenue for creators, artists and people to have some traceability and some provability around the provenance of a particular piece of work. Molecule as a company, separate from VitaDAO, has been quite deep in the NFT space for about two to three years now. And why that is, is because what NFTs allow you to do theoretically, although this hasn’t been done, in many practical use cases yet, is bringing real world assets into the blockchain space into the DeFi space and ultimately into the metaverse. And so from a very high level perspective, what that means is, if you took something like a patent on a therapeutic, and you attach that patent to an NFT, which we’re currently working with a group of lawyers to create this framework right now, to be able to attach real world intellectual property rights to NFTs, as opposed to art. And this is obviously a maybe a less playful use case but something that we believe will have the power to not only affect the therapeutic space, but just more broadly, the intellectual property space. You could, for example, take that NFT of a patent, move it into structures like DAOs, purely from a technology perspective, and then be able to plug that patent into the decentralized finance ecosystem. You could, for example, collateralize it; you could transfer ownership very easily and digitally to another party or within the context of this DAO. You could even fractionalize ownership in it between many different people. So from a very, very practical perspective, what the NFT is in the context of VitaDAO really allows you to do is take real world legal processes, licensing processes, assets, and be able to move them into a digital space to integrate into the same governance technology that is being used to run this DAO. So, it’s really a process of actually creating a technological way by which members of the DAO can interact with that intellectual property and make decisions around it.
So like a musician can take their song, right, and have a representation of that on the blockchain. And so that directly, rather than going through the megalith of the music industry, or you could take a patent or a data set or something like that, and represent that on the blockchain and then exchange it through this other powerful tool and use the blockchain to actually move that around.
Exactly. And so with things like data, if you attach a data set, for example, to an NFT, and there are specific technologies that allow this, you could basically say, only wallet addresses that are members of VitaDAO and have basically a connection to the VitaDAO smart contract, also have access to this particular data set that’s linked to that address. So it just allows you to create, it really allows you to bring these things into the digital realm in a way where there doesn’t need to be a centralized power that’s monitoring things like that access, for example, or the ability to monetize a certain data set. It allows us to say, yeah, you can attach this to this NFT, it can go into this structure. Now, for example, wallet addresses that are holders of Vita tokens, and therefore members of this DAO have access to that, for example. And with patents, I think there’s a really strong use case for licensing in general with smart contracts. This is something that I think you’re going to be seeing happening a lot more – a combination of smart contracts and NFT’s. But I think people could look at something like VitaDAO, and be like, “longevity” “NFTs” and “blockchains.” It sounds really buzzy and hype-ey. But there’s, in all these cases, there’s a very specific technological use case for these technologies. And I think they’re often also quite different than what people are familiar with.
Yeah, even if even if they’re overhyped, there’s still reason for the hype.
Okay, so like the for any, even like a regular startup company, centralized company, decentralized company, in the longevity space or whatever market you’re in, the first step is fundraising, to actually get the project off the ground. So how have there been any decisions made for VitaDAO? How is this going to go?
There’s certain frameworks that are already in place in terms of how the fundraiser is actually going to be carried out. So the mechanics using Balancer liquidity bootstrapping pool, which people can look up and learn about if they’re interested, it’s a way to create a market with even potentially very low market caps and bootstrap initial liquidity into that market. It’s a tool within the decentralized finance ecosystem, people can stake into that pool and provide liquidity to it, people will also be able to through that purchase Vita tokens there. We have initial working groups that have kicked off, looking more deeply into combining fair launch principles. Making sure that there’s not, for example, a pre sale where you pre select the people who will get to buy Vita tokens and also ensuring that the mechanics of the system and the economics of the system exist to serve the goals of the structure primarily, and not speculators and things like that. One of the key things that’s really important with tokenomics, and setting up a structure like this is doing it in such a way that it really serves the use case that you’re going for, and that it can’t be easily exploited or something like that. So one of the things that we’re relying on is basically through the community, setting up working groups on how the tokenomics should be structured, how much we’re raising, what a single Vita token should cost, and what that confers in terms of governance rights. And all of that is still very actively ongoing but should be finalized within the next four weeks.
Yeah, that’s a huge point of the launch, right? It’s a huge point of, I would say contention in the DAO space. So it’s really good that you guys are keeping fairness top of mind for that. And presale is kind of like a big warning sign if people are looking to invest in things like these.
Exactly. I think once a DAO is set up and running and the smart contracts are in place, and the raise has gone through, it’s actually very difficult to change things or say, “oh, maybe we want to do things differently, or maybe we should have done X or Y.” Of course, members can always vote on proposals to change the way things work. But getting the launch right, the initial structure right, and the governance right is really the thing that determines if the structure is going to be viable and successful in its long-term mission. Molecule and my business partner, Paul and I, are initiators of this DAO along with several other people. But our role will be as a service provider role to VitaDAO. We’ll be providing the framework to turn data sets and intellectual property into NFTs. We’ll also be providing a funnel to certain longevity projects through relationships that we’ve built up in the space. But, in the long term, if the DAO wanted to use a completely different service provider, they have the right to do that, and the DAO should ultimately be set up in part with the community that it’s going to be serving. There’s a lot of these questions that people have been asking me recently that I would love to have really concrete answers to, but unfortunately, a lot of the things are still very much a work in progress that’s happening through the community itself.
Yeah, I’ll just add that one of the most interesting parts of this, to me anyways, if you kind of think of VitaDAO as like a startup company, right? Startup companies are funded exclusively through venture capitalists. And there’s no way for the individual investor, the little guy, to get their foot in the door, or put up put up investment in startup companies. I think in the US, it’s actually not allowed, you have to have a certain registration in order to invest in a startup company. So the fact that VitaDAO is making this available to the little guy, I don’t know, that’s just really exciting to me.
Yeah, it’s the thing that’s also really exciting to us. And like the thing that we’ve been, I think this is going to be, this is maybe a slight tangent, but you know, part of the world that we imagine even with Molecule is what would drug drug discovery or drug development look like if the people funding and the people who actually own the intellectual property were patients themselves? What would insulin look like if it was collectively owned and funded by diabetics? How would decisions around that be made? What would access look like?
Very different if I had to guess, very differently.
Yeah. I’m from the US originally, I’m living in Europe now. I come from a very US-centric way of thinking about healthcare and the problems that exist, some of which are quite unique to the US, but I think speak very generally to the global pharmaceutical landscape. I think the prospect of having patients, the public, directly funding and directly owning and directly governing things, as vital as therapeutics is one of the concepts that has the possibility to actually change this system that is extremely rigid, extremely resistant to change has a lot of vested interests. Maybe it doesn’t serve its core stakeholders so well. Like patients, at the end of the day, and one of the reasons I was so fascinated by the space and fascinated by decentralized structures, and the DeFi space, and all of this really providing a technical and legal framework to make that thing that you’re talking about possible. I think that’s one of the profound innovations with this. Yeah, and where I think we’re going to see over the next 10 years, as these systems come into maturity, and the hype cycle around them dies, and all of the teams that were in the space for the hype to die away, and the people who have been building for a long time, and really are fundamental believers in the technology, all those ideas start to realize. I believe it’s really going to change the world in a lot of different ways. I think it’s an exciting time to be in this space.
I agree, and it happens in cycles, right? We’re in a boom cycle right now, and then there’s this great filter in the bust, cycle and then those kind of projects reemerge the next boom cycle as as the big winners. But, to move on, l guess the next step right after that funding is acquired is to deploy it. And we expect it’ll be deployed for longevity research which I would say at that early stage is typically viewed more as a donation rather than an investment. The people that are the members of the DAO community, should they be viewing this more as a donation, or is it more like an investment?
It’s not a donation, but it’s not an investment in the sense that you are providing capital for something that someone else is going to do with your money and you expect to get a certain return on that money. The benefit or the upside that VitaDAO can realize is a function of the efforts of its members and participation in that structure very actively, which would separate it from a conventional investment into an index or fund. There’s someone managing your money and the decision making around your money and it sort of rests on other people to be able to derive some sort of return from that. So, it’s certainly not a donation. I don’t know if you can think about it in conventional terms as investment as we think about investments because the mechanism is really through governance, which is quite different. You have to do something actively as a member in this community which is, for example, vote on things related to governance.
You’re buying membership, more so.
You’re buying membership, exactly. But the other key thing to realize is that there’s a difference between the longevity. VitaDAO’s mission is not to just support basic research into the fundamental mechanisms of aging. It’s actually to support therapeutics development that does have a potentially commercializable angle and can generate intellectual property, which VitaDAO can then decide what to do with. They could contract out a biotech company to produce that drug. There’s many different things that they can do. But it shouldn’t be seen as a grand funding body that exists in the context of academic research. Of course, I mean I fundamentally believe in that mission, but the goal here is to actually try to create a sustainable revenue stream for VitaDAO itself to allow that structure to continuously go on and fund other projects. So, in a perfect world where this concept was operated really smoothly and it was successful, VitaDAO, the structure itself, would go on to fund many different projects that were trying to let’s say develop pioneering technologies in the longevity space. Those could be diagnostics as well; they could be new biomarker tests, for example. VitaDAO would then hold the intellectual property generated from those projects, and those projects would be commercialized and that revenue would flow back to VitaDAO itself, and members could decide what to do with that further revenue and hopefully continue to fund additional projects. So, in a perfect world, it would become something maybe akin to a self-sustaining organization that had the power to continuously fund and develop in the space without needing external injections of capital from philanthropists or things like that.
So it seems like there’s still a lot up in the air, right? I’ve been following the Discord closely, and you guys have been getting tons of great feedback and suggestions so far, but it seems like a lot is still to be decided up to these working groups. The decisions, basically the decisions before the decisions, right? The DAO is this decision making machine, but in order to get it running some decisions have to be made. Can you talk a little bit about the working groups and maybe what things besides the stuff we’ve already covered like what else is finalized so far?
The working groups are operating on a variety of topics. Those topics are legal, which covers for example the legal around the DAO itself, its ability to file for intellectual property and what sort of rights it has as an organization. The IP NFT framework that’s being pioneered from a legal architecture sort of perspective. There’s the tokenomics which comes down to, for example, the fundraise amount, the distribution for example, what sort of timeframe the fundraise happens over, what is it capped at, the mechanism by which people participate. There’s another working group that is on the organization and governance rights, so working out things like what sort of rights a token holder has, what rights does somebody that joins the Discord have that is not necessarily a token holder. Do we differentiate between a general community member that wants to help out with a project but maybe doesn’t hold tokens? What is the relationship to service providers to the DAO, contractors for the DAO, how is administration handled within these organizations? How are proposals voted on? You know, we’re building a whole custom front end and back end for this that will look essentially like a web app where proposals will be voted on by members. There’s actually a certain amount of the community that will be run by Discord, certain working groups it will be run via Discord and then actually a lot of front-end, back-end infrastructure that members will be able to interact with. So all of those components are quite far along in their in their development stage. I think we’re posting updates about the technology development on Twitter and have some information around the progress that the working groups have made, but the plan at the moment is that those should be finalized by about the third week of April with all of the final decision making in place for the launch of the organization itself and the initial fundraise.
That’s not far off.
We’re quite close, yeah. There’s basically a certain number of things that I think have been more or less decided so far, but I can’t really speak about them yet because the the working groups need to basically finalize the decisions and put pen to paper. so I just don’t want to and there still is what’s really interesting around this is i mean these working groups stimulate a really active debate between people around the right and wrong way to do this and it’s you know there’s no what’s really interesting is there’s no we’re sort of in like a frontier space there’s no reference point for this project there’s no one that’s done sort of quite the same thing so you know in a lot of cases by my very nature like if i wanted to know like what is the best way to do this? I would go and I would look at precedent and I would look at other frameworks that have been created and learn about what worked and what didn’t, but unfortunately yeah it’s sort of like [there aren’t any yet].
I hope that VitaDAO someday becomes the giants that other similar projects will stand on their shoulders because there aren’t any yet.
No, I hope so too. Yeah, I will be super I will be super excited if we make a contribution to the longevity space that is measurable and significant. If it does move things along you know from a therapeutic perspective or if it inspires other people to start similar structures with similar goals like I think in that sense it will have yeah served its purpose and be successful.
Yeah, it’s definitely an experiment worth conducting.
Yeah, I think so too.
We’re running short on time, but just very quickly, what’s the best way to follow the VitaDAO progress, if that’s all they wanted to do was just keep tabs on what’s going on?
Probably joining the announcement channel on Telegram and also our active Telegram group. I mean I would encourage people to like engage with the project ask questions to become a part of the community. If you just wanted to purely follow progress the Telegram announcement channel, the website, the Discord are fine places to do that, but yeah i would enourage things like that.
Twitter it seems like as well.
Yeah, Twitter, Telegram, and Discord are the three primary places where we’re engaging with community at the moment. If you want to have a slightly more active role and maybe participate, have conversations with us and other people in the community, and ask questions and poke holes in it and contribute intellectually to the project, I would really encourage anyone to become actively involved on Discord. That initial community that’s joining Discord now is probably going to grow into the community that seeds the initial DAO, and therefore people can have as much of a voice in this as me or anyone else, and I think that’s what’s really cool about joining this project. It’s not like supporting, it’s like cool, let’s build this together.
So, what if instead of just following, they wanted to donate their time, expertise, or skills?
We have a form if you join our Telegram or our Discord, there’s a link to a form you could fill out with of your skill set, what your background is. You could even potentially get involved in working groups, and it’s not just working groups that will basically carry on and then conclude when the DAO launches. There’s long term working groups on how, for example, we find projects. What projects are supported? We have people like Aubrey de Grey for example who are going to be active in these working groups and people like Keith Comito and it would be an amazing chance for you to interact with those people, see how decisions are made, and contribute intellectual capacity. And this goes super broad, if you’re a graphic designer, if you’re a developer, if you’re a solidity developer, and you want to help create the smart contracts for this, in the long term. I mean there’s there’s so many opportunities to get involved and help and I think the power is within the community. So if there’s any skill set that anyone has that they think might suit the project in some way join our Discord, get in touch, fill out the Google form, and we would love to work with you.
We will definitely make sure to include all those links. So, Tyler, on behalf of Lifespan.io, thanks so much for your time and for answering all these questions and explaining this to us.
Yeah, thanks so much for your interest and for speaking to me. It’s really a pleasure; I’ve been a supporter of LEAF for a long time and a huge fan of the work that you guys do in general and the advocacy and education that you bring to the space. So it’s really a privilege to to get to speak with you.
Thank you! We’ll be in touch and following closely.