Interview: Kai Micah Mills On Pet Cryopreservation

Cryopets: whole-body cryopreservation for mammals

A few weeks ago, our CEO and co-founder Dr. Emil Kendziorra asked Kai Micah Mills a few questions about his latest project, Cryopets. Kai is another brilliant mind that has decided to join the Cyonics (aka Biostasis) field to help its growth and development. Find out more about Kai and his vision for the future of pet cryopreservation.

Kai Micah Mills - high school dropout and founder of Cryopets

So who exactly is Kai Micah Mills? Kai is a software developer and avid Minecraft player based in Salt Lake, Utah. After developing several tech projects, he decided to devote himself to the development of cryopreservation. This led him to found Cryopets, the first startup specializing in cryopreservation for mammals. While the company is still in its infancy, Kai already has clear ideas on how he wants to develop his project and influence the field of cryonics in general. If you want to watch the full 45 minute online interview, check the Youtube video below. If you happen to be in a rush instead, we have transcribed some of the key details.

Emil: Do you want to quickly introduce yourself initially before we dig into what you're doing?

Kai: Sure. I really got interested in life extension back in 2011. I wanted to build in this space but I was 12 at the time, so it was, you know, difficult. I stayed as an observer and did a lot of research over the years, but I did what I was naturally good at, which was just tech and computers. I spent about a decade in tech, I dropped out of high school, sold a few companies and here we are. I knew I wanted to go into the life extension space but I didn't know I specifically wanted to do cryonics. Of course, I was interested in it over the years, for example, I visited Alcor Life Extension Foundation back in 2016. I decided to enter the field for a lot of the reasons that you, Emil, decided to enter it as well. The field obviously needs a lot of help and there's much impact we can have so, yeah, here we are. I'm the founder of Cryopets where we're working on cryonic for pets, which the name gets across well. 

Cryopets webpage

Emil: It seems to be a common path to start from longevity and then move over to cryopreservation. What made you interested in cryopreservation in the first place?

Kai: You see, there were a couple of reasons. The first reason was because a lot of people weren't focused on this field, which was very surprising to me. There wasn't a lot of funding so I was really trying to figure out where I could make the most impact and help out the most. Secondly, cryonics stuck out to me because it directly targets the death problem whereas, even if we solve the aging problem in our lifetimes, there are still so many more causes of death. I think it's very important to have something in place that can really halt biology and give us more time to hopefully solve every problem in the future.

Additionally, I come from being a software engineer for 10 years and I think a lot of the people in the field actually come from similar backgrounds. As an engineer in that regard, you kind of see the body as a machine that we can fix. With cryonics, there are very tangible problems that we have to solve. I truly believe that we can solve every problem eventually, especially when it comes to the biology of the body. And we have practically unlimited time to figure that out.

I have interesting conversations with my father regarding cryopreservation because he's very religious. We talk about how long you have to be dead before the soul comes back to the body. Because we know that people temporarily die all the time. Is it two hours or is it maybe two years?

Emil: So you come from a religious background or like a spiritual background?

Kai: Yeah, I grew up in a Mormon family so we were about as religious as you can get. I went to church every week. Religion promises you that you're going to live forever right? Around 2011 I started pulling away from that, I was about 13 years old. I saw that there was a way that we can tangibly reach a sort of life after death through science. For me, it’s the one thing that really makes sense to focus on right now. But yeah, coming from a religious background it was definitely a change of scenery.

When I run surveys on why people would not want to cryopreserve their pet I have a lot of responses and most of them are religious. Either it's against nature or it's against god. And, of course, we've been going “against nature” for a long time. I don’t know if we would even be here if we didn’t. 

I personally think there is kind of a communication problem when it comes to religion and cryonics. Which is: just because you believe in an afterlife doesn't mean you're necessarily rushing to get there. Religious people still get medicine when they need it, and get the surgery they need. Cryonics really is just another form of emergency medicine, it doesn't have to be against god.

Emil: Before diving deep into philosophical questions, what does Cryopets actually do?

Kai: We're at a very early-stage now but the goal is to build somewhat of a hybrid facility: half veterinary hospital and half cryonic facility. I believe that, in an ideal future, we will have cryopreservation procedures in hospitals all over the world. There wouldn't be as much of a delay caused by having to transport your body across the country. I think the best way that we can do that is by getting cryopreservation into hospitals. If you're going to get a risky surgery in a hospital where we can perform cryopreservation, you avoid the risk of permanent death. 

I really would like to see cryonics in hospitals one day and I believe that, if we can start with animal hospitals, then we can get on the path to get there. Eventually, we can train other animal hospitals around the country and equip them with what they need so that they can actually perform these procedures. Then if someone’s pet is old or sick and their veterinarian has decided that it's best to euthanize them, they can actually opt in for cryonics for their pet right there at one of their local veterinary hospitals.

I'm my own customer here, I have a 10-year-old cat and I've talked with Alcor, which technically does offer cryopreservation for pets. They've done very few and in a lot of cases the pets are shipped to them and they just have to do a straight freeze. It's very not ideal and you also have to be a member yourself. I think one of the best ways to get people to be interested in cryopreserving themselves is to offer them cryopreservation for their pets ahead of time. Therefore I think it's very important to have a facility that's specifically focused on pets, developing and optimizing procedures for a semi-wide array of sizes, thinking about logistics, etc.

Emil: Is there anything fundamentally different between procedures for humans and animals?

Kai: As I said, we're at an early stage so I haven't gotten very deep into all the applied research areas that I'd like to explore. As of now, it would just be perfecting the procedures as much as we can. I think the most important part is getting as close as we can to lab-quality preservations as with pets you can go directly from euthanasia to the cryopreservation process because we can do the euthanasia right there and we can perform the procedure directly after. 

Emil: I think that this is one of the very fundamental advantages of pet cryopreservation, as a lot of the difficulty in a human cryopreservation case comes from the logistical issues. If you get around them by having your own hospital it’s a big advantage in quality and actually makes it probably possible to get close to lab quality.

Humans are bigger and more complex mammals

Emil: Are you planning to collaborate with organizations and animal hospitals or you’ll build everything from scratch?

Kai: We will first build our facility from scratch but I very much would like to collaborate with animal hospitals in the near future. Before I even had the idea of building a hybrid facility I was thinking: “what is the best way to get into the first animal hospital and convince them?” I very much don't want to try to fill a bucket with holes in it. If I go to animal hospitals right now and I tell them about this, I think there would be some interest as there's a way for them to make more money from it. And I'm sure that a lot of people, maybe just out of love of animals, would love the idea of trying to extend their lives. But I think I’d still get a lot of nos and I don't want to burn all of those opportunities. 

If we can start with our veterinary hospital, we can start doing these procedures by ourselves. When we have the numbers that we need, we can go to these animal hospitals and we can show them that they can really make money by performing these procedures. This is after we scale and we've already proven that there's a market here. So we need to raise more money to equip and train these veterinary hospitals for free. To start we only need one in every state, we don't need every single animal hospital to be on board.

Emil: Existing cryopreservation organizations already do offer pet cryopreservation, but in your mind, that's the wrong way around right?

Kai: I think the problem is that you have to be a member yourself. People will go through their lives and have pets. If you have pets sometime in your life they're probably going to die before you do.

I think it is a smart way to get more people interested in cryonics for themselves if they can start with their pet rather than the other way around. There are a lot of things that I don't like about the other facilities. Pet cryopreservation it's not a focus by any means. I think the Cryonics Institute can get the price pretty low but I believe they do just straight freeze of pets. They're also not attached to the veterinary hospitals, so there's still that presumably long delay in getting your pet from the hospital to there. I don't think it's a good enough offering to feel confident in, otherwise of course I wouldn't be making my own company. I would just take my cat there if I would feel comfortable but I just very much don’t. They don't have any sort of standby or emergency kits that they give out to people, I think there's just a lot of room to innovate. 

Emil: This is indeed a very important topic, I think. As a human cryopreservation organization, you kind of need to offer pet cryopreservation because for some people pets are equivalent to their children so it's very important for them that they are also cryopreserved. We as well offer primarily human cryopreservation but we do accept pets. But then again I'm very confident in our human cryopreservation procedures and surgical procedures and so on, whereas our cat or dog procedures it's just significantly rarer. For us, once you're fully set up, it would make total sense to say “hey, we do human cryopreservation and of course, you can have your pet cryopreserved as well, but this is with one of our partner organizations and they are specialized on that”.

Kai: I've heard this from multiple organizations, where essentially they're more confident in doing humans because there have been so many more cases.

Emil: Do you already have a plan on when you would be able to cryopreserve your first pet?

Kai: The facility, when we start building it, will take six to eight months. I'd like to start building it by early next year so it's possible that next year we could have the facility household towards the end of the year. There would still be a delay between when the facility is built and when we actually start offering cryopreservation, of course our animal hospital will be up and running by then. We'll have to bring in veterinarians, we'll have to train all of them. I would say early 2024 but it's also difficult to put an exact estimate on it.

Emil: So the plan would be that people who have pets would be able to sign up their pets for cryopreservation without being a member of a human cryopreservation organization. Would you then try to have them sign up later? Because of course let's say revival works and let's say we're in a society that can do at some point revival. If someone brings the pet back and the human isn't there…

Kai: If there were animals from the 1800s, cats and dogs who were cryopreserved and today we said “oh yeah we can actually revive these now”, would anyone want to have those very special 1800s pets? I think a lot of people would say “absolutely!” I don't think it'd be difficult to re-own them by any means. Jokes aside, I would love to be the catalyst for people to sign up.

In a few years, there might be cryopreservation available at your vet

Emil:  So I guess you're planning to have your cat cryopreserved as well, right?

Kai: My cat is ten, she's getting older but she's perfectly healthy. She does have to go in to get her teeth fixed at some point. They basically put her under anesthesia and they get all the plaque off and maybe remove a tooth or two if it's needed. There's risk that comes with that. Anesthesia in perfectly healthy cats is usually fine, it's like one in eight hundred cats that have complications and end up dying from it. She's older as well, she's ten. I think over seven they're a lot more cautious with it, they do blood work to make sure that there are no other issues that might cause problems. There's just a very real risk there. So I'm actually even setting up a makeshift lab in my garage just in case something bad would happen. There's a chance there so I'd like to be prepared.

Just as a funny story, I had a couple of turtles when I was 11. Their names were Tavonne and Nikita. Maybe a year or two and Tavonne got lodged between the rock at the side of the aquarium underwater and ended up drowning. I loved this turtle and so we went out back and we had a funeral service and we buried him in the backyard. I was very sad and about a year later I asked my dad “can we go dig up the turtle so I can get his shell”. So we went and we dug up the hole and we saw his shell. My dad picked up the shell and he sucked his arms in. The turtle was just alive and fine! I guess he wasn't dead initially, he was maybe just unconscious apparently. He just looked dead. I guess burying him in the colder ground kind of put him into a hibernation state. My first experience with reviving a pet, I suppose! 

A picture of Kai’s cat from his Twitter account

Emil:  What are your next steps in the company, what's currently top of mind?

Kai: Fundraising has been my primary focus. It's kind of a double-edged sword because things have gotten a lot harder over the past months. But at the same time, if you're a strong founder who has a great idea and you're known to execute, then it's actually a really great time.

My main focus is maybe making the first hires fairly soon. Maybe bring a CSO on board and then, aside from that, I am working with the architect to get the preliminary look at what this facility might look like. It's like a veterinary hospital with some extra room and there's some lab space as well as the storage space of course. 

I think those are the main focuses right now and then a lot of market research: figuring out sentiment towards pet cryopreservation, what gets people to be more excited about it, and what sort of education is really useful. If you educate people about some of the breakthroughs that have happened in this field, you can get a totally different opinion from them. I think a lot of people just don't know. I mean, generally, a lot of people don't know about very specific niche procedures. So I think that there is some education that we can do through marketing. I also think that being part of a veterinary hospital would make people trust that we are real doctors and that the right things are being done.

Emil:  Do you think that the biggest challenge for pet cryopreservation will be more on the science side or the marketing side?

Kai: Just from a purely business perspective, science isn't necessarily the problem. Obviously, I want to do a lot of research to improve the procedures. But let's say we open today and we have the exact same procedures that have been used in the past, right? The company itself can still be successful. So I don't think science is the main obstacle for the company.

I think it will probably be marketing. We are working in deep tech so we have to create the market. If pet cryopreservation was widely popular, then there would probably already be companies for it because there's a demand. So there is a lot of interest but we have to really create that market. And then I think talent is going to be another challenge because there is just a huge lack of talent in the cryonic space. A lot of people have to be trained by the few that know the science and have had experience. Luckily we're working with Tanya Jones who had so much experience and she's done dozens and dozens of suspensions herself. I think with her help we can train these veterinarians. 

Would you cryopreserve your furry friend?

Emil:  What do you think is the strongest argument to make people decide if cryopreservation is for them or not?

Kai: If there was one thing that I could get everyone to change their minds on is the fact that death is bad. It is a bad thing and it's solvable. I think those are the two most important key points there.

Because we have the very-religious crowd who obviously believes in the afterlife and doesn't really necessarily see this as a problem that we need to solve. And then we have the non-religious crowd who at a very young age have accepted death and then sort of looked at it as inevitable. I think if there was one thing that I could get people to think about it's “if you had the choice to not die would you take it?” This is very feasible work that we're doing. Look at the things that humanity is really excited for or maybe not even excited for, we're just expecting soon. We hear a lot about artificial intelligence coming. We hear a lot about colonizing Mars of course. If we compare a lot of things that humanity is expecting in the coming decades to cryopreserving slightly more complex and larger organs, this is very doable. Something that people really need to understand is that death is a solvable problem. Once they get to that point I think a lot of people would opt in.

Emil: I think in all points in history this was always kind of the right approach. I'm not even sure if I would follow that it's relatively close but it's definitely within maybe a generation or two or three or something like that. I think for the first time since the last few years it's at least imaginable that it's solvable. In the past, of course, it was unimaginable far away. You couldn't really reasonably think about it. If today more people accepted it, the process would probably be faster and we would get to where it's actually feasible quicker. We are currently in this transitionary period where, from a first principle thinking perspective, it looks like it could be within reach so very very exciting times.

Kai: Absolutely, I think it's probably the coolest time in all of history to be born. Being on the cusp of that is incredible, also on the cusp of space travel. I think we were born at absolutely the coolest time, there's a lot of exciting stuff to come!

Kai Micah Mills and Dr. Emil Kenziorra talking about the future of pet cryopreservation

Conclusion

The cryopreservation field has been slowly but steadily developing in the last decades. Now, while the current technological breakthroughs are showing the world how far we could possibly go, revival becomes more of a feasible and exciting topic.

At Tomorrow, we look with interest at other cryonics-related organizations and startups. Each of us is doing our part in creating knowledge and interest in the topic. We wish Kai's project the best of luck. Let's see if pet cryopreservation will finally be the key to the success of cryonics! 

In the meantime, if you would like to learn more about cryopreservation for yourself or your favorite furry friend, feel free to schedule a call with one of our experts. 

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