It seems that billionaire biotech investor Jim Mellon is the flavor of the month as he continues the drive to create a rejuvenation biotech industry. Jim and his colleagues at Juvenescence have announced that they have secured another $100M for the company, and it will be used to invest and support the growth of promising biotech companies working in this field.
Juvenescence has a varied investment portfolio of companies that range in potential usefulness, depending on your point of view, and they mostly favor the more traditional small molecule drug approach. There are a few companies that are of particular interest.
Lygenesis – Organ regeneration using a patient’s own lymph nodes
Perhaps the most interesting company that Juvenescence has funded is Lygenesis, which is developing ways to achieve organ regeneration using a patient’s own lymph nodes. The company was formed as a spinoff of the University of Pittsburgh’s McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine and plans to use a patient’s own lymph nodes as bioreactors where new functional organs can be grown to replace failing and damaged ones. The liver, kidney, pancreas, and thymus are the current foci of its research.
The liver will be the first in line for clinical trials using this technique, which will be aimed at helping patients with end-stage liver disease. The company plans to make a hepatocyte cell transplant into the lymph nodes to allow the hepatocytes to engraft (join the tissue) and form functional liver tissue, which can then take up the slack that the failing liver has left.
Given that there is currently no cure for end-stage liver disease, this new approach could be transformative for the transplant market and may allow patients with this condition to avoid the need for a liver transplant.
AgeX – Reprogramming old cells to be young again
Another company that Juvenescence has invested in is AgeX, which is led by Dr. Michael West, a regular speaker at our conferences and a fascinating researcher to boot. AgeX has been developing a number of cell therapies and techniques, including PureStem®, its cell derivation and manufacturing platform, and UniverCyte™, its immune tolerance platform.
These two systems were created to work together to produce high-quality pluripotent stem cell-derived young cell lines for use in a variety of cell therapies and for research purposes. The company has two main programs using this system, which are vascular progenitor cells for tissue ischemia and brown adipose cells for type 2 diabetes.
AgeX is also developing induced Tissue Regeneration (iTR™), a platform that aims to boost the regenerative capacity of our cells in order to reverse age-related changes to organs and tissues. iTR uses a combination of partial cellular reprogramming and transient telomerase activation to reset cellular aging, improve tissue health, and make cells functionally young again. The iTR therapy will be deployed using AgeX HyStem, a delivery system for cell and small-molecule therapies designed to support cell therapy engraftment; the iTR molecules will be accurately released at a steady rate using this system, which is vital for reprogramming approaches and to avoid the formation of teratomas.
If you are interested in the potential of partial cellular reprogramming, AgeX is a company definitely worth keeping a close eye on.
FoxBio – Senescent cell removal
FoxBio is another interesting company on the list and is a joint venture between Juvenescence and Antoxerene, a portfolio company of Ichor Therapeutics. FoxBio is developing small-molecule approaches for targeting problematic senescent cells, which accumulate as we age, cause inflammation, and support the development of various age-related diseases.
Senescent cells use various pro-survival pathways, and FoxBio is focused on targeting these pathways in order to shut down senescent cells and remove them from the body. The presence of these cells increases with age, and their removal in various animal studies has shown multiple health benefits and a delayed onset of age-related diseases.
Juvenescence, a life sciences company utilising expert drug developers and artificial intelligence experts to create therapeutics and technologies to treat diseases of aging and to increase human longevity, is pleased to announce the successful closure of its $100 million Series B round, including a total of $10 million from its founders and a further $10 million each from four cornerstone investors, including Grok Ventures, the investment company of Mike Cannon-Brookes (Atlassian cofounder), and Michael Spencer’s private investment company, IPGL . This brings the total to $165 Million that Juvenescence has raised in 18 months and speaks to the extraordinary opportunity as well as interest in developing therapeutics with the capacity to modify aging.
Juvenescence is creating a longevity ecosystem, with world class scientists, seasoned drug developers, machine learning experts and a strong team with financial acumen to navigate this emerging new biotech growth sector and to develop 12 therapeutic candidates within the field of healthy aging.
Jim and the Juvenescence team certainly seem to be going full throttle towards laying the foundations of what could potentially become the largest industry in history. The reversal of aging has been demonstrated numerous times in various model animals, and with some therapies now in human trials, the hope is that those results will translate.
If just one trial pans out and the results seen in mouse studies translate to humans, it will almost certainly be transformative for the healthcare industry. We are thankful for people like Jim Mellon and the Juvenescence team for helping the drive to end age-related diseases.