Michael Greve is an internet entrepeneur turned venture capitalist with a long-standing interest in aging and longevity, and yesterday he pledged $10 million in support of SENS rejuvenation research: $5 million for the science, and a further $5 million to fund startups for clinical development. This money will help speed the development of therapies that can repair the forms of cell and tissue damage that cause aging, and thus prevent age-related disease, rejuvenate the old, and significantly extend healthy life spans. Michael Greve runs the Forever Healthy Foundation and the Kizoo venture fund, and has become ever more involved in the SENS rejuvenation research community over the past few years. If you attended any of the recent SENS conferences you might have met him. He was one of the generous matching fund donors for last year’s Fight Aging! SENS fundraiser, and this year his venture fund has invested in companies Oisin Biotechnology and Ichor Therapeutics, both of which are carrying out the clinical development of biotechnologies relevant to the SENS approach.
The $5 million that Greve has pledged to research will be the founding donation for Project|21, which is the new SENS Research Foundation high-level fundraising program aiming to pull in exactly this sort of support: millions for specific programs, to complete the first prototype SENS rejuvenation therapies and push this industry into existence
Not so very long ago the SENS Research Foundation engaged a specialist in high-end medical non-profit fundraising, and Project|21 is the outgrowth of that relationship, a program to raise the millions needed to take the first SENS therapies to readiness for human clinical trials over the next five years. To get to the point at which such a program is possible and practical required the years of groundwork and grassroots support that we as a community have provided: large donations always follow the crowd, and high net worth donors require advocates and thousands of supporters to light the way – and to continue those efforts. In effect, this launch of Project|21, alongside the advent of the first startups working on senescent cell clearance, marks a transition to a new stage of development for rejuvenation research following the SENS vision of repairing the cell and tissue damage that causes aging.
Starteups working on SENS area of clearing old cells
Gensight is a French company with tens of millions in venture funding that is built on technology for allotopic expression of mitochondrial genes originally partly funded by the SENS Research Foundation. They are focused on generating a robust commercial implementation for one mitochondrial gene, initially to deploy gene therapies to treat hereditary mitochondrial disease. Creating such a robust implementation is an important foundation for a future effort in which all mitochondrial genes can be backed up to the cell nucleus, and thus the contribution of mitochondrial DNA damage to aging can be eliminated.
Human Rejuvenation Technologies
Human Rejuvenation Technologies is a venture run by philanthropist Jason Hope, who you may recall funded a sizable chunk of the ongoing work on glucosepane cross-link breaking at the SENS Research Foundation back a few years ago. Glucosepane cross-link breaker drug candidates seem to be a few years in the future yet, so Human Rejuvenation Technologies is instead working with a drug candidate for clearing a form of metabolic waste key to plaque formation in atherosclerosis. This candidate is one of the results produced by the long-running SENS Research Foundation LysoSENS program.
Ichor Therapeutics has been around for a couple of years, and has done a good job in setting a sustainable lab business on the side. The interesting work here, however, is the continuation of SENS research programs aimed at removing the buildup of A2E, one of the components of lipofuscin that builds up in cells and interferes with cellular garbage disposal. Unusually among the forms of cellular damage, even those involving buildup of metabolic waste such as lipofusin, A2E is linked very directly and solidly to some forms of age-related disease that involve retinal degeneration. In most cases the fundamental damage that causes aging is separated from the end stage of disease by lengthy and barely understood chains of cause and consequence, but here it is very clear that getting rid of A2E is a good thing.
Oisin Biotechnologies is developing a senescent cell clearance therapy, an approach to treating aging that has definitely arrived with a splash: there are multiple methods demonstrated in mice, and a number of different groups at the point of launching commercial development efforts. The company was funded more than a year ago by the Methuselah Foundation and SENS Research Foundation, and you’ll be hearing much more about them in the year ahead, I predict.
Pentraxin Therapeutics is the oldest and slowest of these companies, founded way back in 2001. The SENS-relevant work started in 2008 or 2009 with a partnership with GlaxoSmithKline to develop a treatment to clear transthyretin amyloid, a form of metabolic waste that builds up with age and is linked to cardiovascular disease, osteoarthritis, and death by heart failure in the oldest human beings. A human trial recently produced very positive results, showing significant clearance of amyloid in patients, and this is consequently probably the furthest advanced of all SENS technologies. Unfortunately it is also the most locked up within the slow regulatory system and a Big Pharma partnership. It is hard to say what is going to happen next here, but don’t hold your breath expecting to see anything in the clinic soon.
Unity Biotechnology has emerged from the first successful efforts to clear senescent cells via gene therapy, back in 2011, as well as ongoing programs such as those of the Campisi laboratory. They have a sizable staff for a startup, good venture backing, and are developing treatments based on these methods, but which will be more suitable for use in human patients.
It is great to see such a large number of people pushing the SENS line of damage repair as the approach to treatment of aging.
SOURCE – Fight aging