The firm is the seventh life expectancy provider to achieve approval to operate in Florida by the state’s regulator.
Lapetus Solutions Inc., run by aging expert Jay Olshansky, is the latest firm to win registration as a life expectancy provider from the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation.
The Wilmington, N.C.-based firm was notified Wednesday, Feb. 20, that it had successfully met the requirements of the regulatory agency, joining six others who offer life expectancy reports to the life settlement market.
“We’re very pleased,” said company President Norvell Miller, who forwarded a letter from OIR saying Lapetus had completed the registration process.
When Lapetus started in 2014, it spent the first few years on research and development and then branched out into the commercial realm two years ago, Miller said.
Lapetus, which takes its name from the Greek god of mortality, has been offering life expectancy reports to an asset manager that runs five funds, two of them Chinese and three in the U.S., he said.
Now, that Lapetus is registered in Florida, it will be able to expand into the secondary market. Licensed Florida life settlement providers are required to use reports from life expectancy providers registered in the state.
However, similar restrictions don’t apply to tertiary market players, who trade previously purchased policies and portfolios, which explains why the asset manager has been able to use Lapetus’s life expectancy reports before it obtained registration in Florida.
Miller said Lapetus will be ready in the second half of the year to offer life expectancy reports to the secondary market.
“Our real focus is being set up to do it right. We’ll underwrite and work with whoever we feel is a good fit. We definitely intend to ramp up the business now that we’re at this phase,” Miller added.
Currently, the company’s capacity is limited by the number of doctors it has retained to prepare the life expectancy estimates, he said.
But he believes what the firm has to offer is superior to what else is available in the market.
“We’re providing life expectancy reports from a clinical perspective that’s much better than anything offered in the industry,” Miller said.
Lapetus was formed in June 2014 by Olshansky, an epidemiology professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, whose team invented biodemographic sciences in the early 1990s; and Dr. Karl Ricanek Jr., a University of North Carolina at Wilmington professor, who is a facial aging and analytics expert.
In an interview in January, Olshansky, co-founder and chief scientist of the firm, said besides looking at medical records like traditional life expectancy firms, Lapetus plans to use personal attributes such as income, education, level of physical activity and marital status to develop what he believes is a more complete picture of an insured’s health status.
“We quantified that these attributes are linked to longevity,” Olshansky said last month.
Many seniors have primary impairments, but they’re heavily impacted by personal lifestyle attributes, he has said.
He said that Lapetus plans to use doctors with special expertise to develop the estimates such as geriatricians and scientists in the aging field.
As of last month, the company had three physicians lined up as staff members and it planned to hire one to two more physicians a month until it builds up to 10 to 20 doctors it can call on to do the reviews.
Last week, after Lapetus won licensure in Florida, Olshanksy said his company will be the first to introduce a generian longevity panel to the marketplace.
“We’ve identified a suite of nine genes that have been directly associated with human longevity. They’re in other species and have the same effects. It’s one of those genetic forces that exist in life,” Olshansky said.
He’s aware of other genetic technology that another market player is analyzing.
GWG Holdings Inc. (GWGH) has licensed methylation-based predictor of mortality technology from the University of California, Los Angeles that was developed by human genetics professor Steve Horvath.
Olshansky said he believes the technology, which indicates cellular aging, still needs more testing before it can be used in the life expectancy arena.
However, Olshansky said he knows of methylation researcher Horvath and believes the science behind his work is solid.
Dan Callahan, a spokesman for GWG, a Minneapolis-based life settlement portfolio owner, declined to comment.
In its third-quarter report in November, GWG said it launched YouSurance, a digital life insurance agency that plans to apply epigenetic assessments to applicants’ health conditions.
It said that it began a self-designed research study in which it collected biological samples from 1,300 people for its epigenetic program, which mirrors traditional biomarkers used in life insurance underwriting.
GWG said that YouSurance and is sister company, Life Epigenetics Inc., plan to apply technology and machine learning to gain insights into health and wellness in a way that hasn’t been done before.
Dr. Daniel Zimmerman, senior vice president and chief medical director of Reinsurance Group of America, who did a webinar in July on epigenetics, which was discussed at length in an earnings call by GWG CEO Jon Sabes, appears to agree with Olshansky that more research is needed in the area.
Zimmerman mentioned three areas of epigenetics study, one of them being DNA methylation, which he described as molecular changes that might occur in response to environmental factors such as diet, chemicals encountered by a person, viruses a person has contracted and a person’s level of activity.
But he said much more work needs to be done to understand changes that occur to genes exposed to various environments and lifestyles.
Olshansky said he believes Lapetus will bring something new to the market.
“It’s not new science. It’s just been used elsewhere for other purposes,” he said.
Aging experts are academics who publish their work in scientific journals, he said. He believes few of them have formed companies like his to offer their expertise to businesses.
“The advantage we bring is we’re research scientists. We can go back decades to research that’s been done for 50 years. We can test our technology,” Olshansky said.
“There’s a lot of subtleties to understanding the dynamics of human longevity. Those subtleties, which influence the bottom line of investors in life settlements can have a powerful influence,” he said. “If you’re adding 1% to 5% on the return of investment, you’re juicing up the returns for folks in this considerably.”
For example, he said he hasn’t seen any description of the diabetic drug metformin in the life expectancy reports he’s looked at.
“We think it lowers the risk of a broad range of diseases,” he said, referring to heart disease, stroke and cancer.
He said the drug’s effect on slowing aging was studied at a TAME (Targeting Aging with Metformin) clinical trial by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
Lapetus not only is working in the life settlement space, it also is working with insurance companies.
“We’re working with about 20 carriers. We’re on every continent,” Miller said. “We’re doing more in Asia. …We’re working with underwriting, some engagement.”
Another part of its company focuses on facial analytics to determine biological age, he said.
Gen RE Asia just released an app that uses the company’s tools to sell life insurance for millennials, he said. They take selfies as part of the insurance application process.
Olshansky gave a demonstration of his firm’s facial analytics in 2014 at a Life Insurance Settlement Association conference in which he used Darwin Bayston, CEO and president of the trade group, as a guinea pig. Bayston, who was 74 at the time, turned out to have the biological age of someone in his early 60s.
Original article published on The Deal.
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