Naveen Jain: Imagining the End of Disease

    Born into poverty, Naveen Jain’s unbridled imagination and drive to help as many people as possible has taken him to extraordinary heights in business, exploring areas as diverse as the human gut and the moon. With his infectious enthusiasm he tells AGEIST what drives him, and how we can all find our "moonshot."

    Naveen Jain will be a keynote speaker at the YBL (Your Best Life) Conference June 11, 2019 in Los Angeles. More info here.

    Naveen Jain: billionaire, entrepreneur, disrupter, innovator. A man who embodies the AGEIST manifesto that curiosity + drive will carry a person a very long way. Seven wildly successfully companies, including one to mine minerals on the moon and another to upend the healthcare system by empowering people to optimize their own health through home biome testing kits, and he shows no signs of slowing down.

    “The only things that are not possible are the things we can’t imagine. Everything you can imagine is possible. If we can’t imagine something, it is not possible. Therefore, imagination is the only limit.”

    No limits for Naveen.

    Imagine How to Survive

    Poverty was a constant growing up in a rural village in India. But his parents were wise: they encouraged imagination and aspiration, never allowing Naveen to think of himself as a victim. Somehow, in an amazing testament to tenacity, will and perseverance, Naveen got both an engineering degree and an MBA. From India he went to NJ for a year-long training internship and then to Silicon Valley where the “action” was, and his extraordinary career was launched.

    Imagine How to Thrive

    Years later, he had an epiphany illuminating a purpose for his life. He decided to dedicate himself to doing everything he could to help the most people around the world; in essence, paying it forward. But he realized, if he was going to help billions of people, he had to think big.

    “It takes the same amount of time and energy to solve a small problem as it does a big one, so why not go out and attack a big one? The pertinent question is: Is it going to change the life of millions/billions of people?”

    Thus began Naveen’s quest to imagine, and accomplish, a better planet. “What we can’t imagine, we can’t achieve.”

    When Naveen recognized that technology was moving at such a pace that individuals and small groups of people could do things that could previously only be tackled by governments and large companies, he imagined that he could take advantage of resources located where no private company had gone before: the moon.

    “Don’t put limitations on your own mind. Don’t think of what the world is today. Imagine the world the way you think it could be. If we believe something is impossible, then it will be impossible in your mind. Ask the correct questions; imagine and ask yourself ‘what if?’ Imagination is the only thing that limits us to what we can achieve.”

    Instead of dismissing the idea, as most people would, Naveen co-founded Moon Express to mine resources on the moon — materials like gold, cobalt, platinum, and Helium-3 (nuclear energy fuel).

    Moon Express applied to the US government for a permit to mine on the moon. Understandably, the government scratched their heads for a long period of time. But his persistence and vision paid off, and now Moon Express is the only company allowed to leave the earth’s orbit and land on the moon.

    “I really believe that lunar is going to become like our eighth continent,” he told CNBC in an interview last year. “We are going to have a permanent presence there, we are going to have internet there and we are going to be able to communicate just like we communicate from here to Australia.”

    Imagine a Better Healthcare System

    Naveen was vehemently opposed to the current model of healthcare, where doctors don’t make money unless a patient remains sick and requires constant care and medications. He describes pharmaceutical companies, who make billions off of sick “subscribers” by providing symptom management through medication, but not cures, as being the “parasite of humanity.”

    Naveen wanted to see a world where sickness was elective, and he became obsessed with fixing the current healthcare model, a behemoth that US presidents and government officials have failed to impact after many attempts.

    “Never be afraid to pursue things that you initially know absolutely nothing about.”

    The fact that he had no background or training in healthcare was not a consideration. Naveen is a very smart guy, but the source of his success is not his intelligence, it’s his ability to run headfirst into territory about which he knows little.

    He voraciously researched medical study after medical study, all of which kept leading him back to the same source of human disease: the human microbiome.

    “Asking the right set of questions allows you to solve the right problems.”

    Humans have only 20,000 – 25,000 genes. The earthworm has 30,000. So how is it that humans are such a complex organism?

    That question led Naveen to develop the belief that humans have “outsourced” many biological functions to the 40 trillion organisms in our gut microbiome — the collective of microbes (bacteria, bacteriophage, fungi, protozoa and viruses) that live inside the intestinal track, with 2 – 20 million genes of their own.

    Following that logic a step further, if this group of symbiotic organisms is the seat of human health or disease, then by optimizing the microbiome, one would be able to control his or her own health.

    “Profit is the engine that allows a company to scale, so never be ashamed to tell someone, ‘The thing I do makes money because that’s what allows me to help more people.’ If an initiative is not profitable, then it is not financially viable.”

    VIOME Is Born

    And so, Naveen founded his next company, Viome. The mission statement: a healthcare company that aims to make illness elective by identifying microbial biomarkers that are predictive of chronic diseases and adjusting the microbial imbalance through personalized nutrition.

    “Food is really, to a large extent, the personalized drug we take every day. Every food you take changes what is being expressed in your gut,” Jain says.

    Viome licensed its technology from the Los Alamos National Laboratory, from science that originated in bio-warfare detection technology. In an echo of “we are what we eat,” he quotes Hippocrates’ “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Sometimes the ancients really got it right.

    He believes this holds the key to enabling us to live healthier, more vibrant lives — perhaps a long life span, but more importantly, a longer health span. By optimizing th