We hope August has treated you well—it certainly did so for life extension, as this has been another month full of great news for the field. Don’t be upset with the departure of summer and the arrival of autumn, because little by little, we’re getting close to pushing away the autumn of years.
More investments against aging
The fight against aging is being taken more and more seriously by a growing number of investors, who realize the world-changing potential of effective rejuvenative treatments as well as the great opportunity for profit. Juvenescence Limited, which recently closed a 10-million deal with Ichor Therapeutics‘ Antoxerene, has now announced the purchase of 14.4 million shares of BioTime’s AgeX Therapeutics—a company focused on extending healthy human lifespan—for a total of over $43 million. AgeX’s work focuses on telomerase upregulation and cell therapies, and Juvenescence has invested in AgeX before. The news has been reported and commented on on Fight Aging! as well.
Ichor Therapeutics isn’t sitting about either, having recently launched its own strategic fund, Grapeseed.bio. Ichor already has a very interesting company portfolio, which includes Antoxerene and LysoCLEAR, and is now helping other rejuvenation startups grow by providing them seed funding, mentorship, and laboratory access in exchange for equity. Grapeseed.bio has, thus far, raised millions of dollars for rejuvenation startups and has recently been joined by Repair Biotechnologies, the company launched earlier this year by Fight Aging!’s editor Reason.
On August 6, San Diego-based biotech company Samumed announced having raised $438 million for the development of anti-aging therapies, with a focus on osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Speaking of investments, we’d like to remind you of LEAF’s Longevity Investors Network, our own initiative to foster investments in rejuvenation research. If you are interested in becoming an investor or want to pitch your own rejuvenation-related startup, or know anyone building a promising longevity-focused company, please make sure to get in touch with our Longevity Investor Network leader Javier at [email protected].
Kicking things off, the new episode of the Rejuvenation Roundup Podcast is available today.
Team and activities
In August, three more renowned experts have joined our advisory boards: Steven A. Garan from the Center for Research & Education on Aging and Dr. Irina Conboy from UC Berkeley have joined our Scientific Advisory Board, and Michael Kope from SENS Research Foundation has joined our Industry Advisory Board We’re absolutely thrilled to have them on board, and we look forward to working with them!
Thanks to the generosity of our community, in late 2017, we crowdfunded the AgeMeter Biomarker System—a device to measure several aging biomarkers and estimate a patient’s functional age, which may differ from his or her chronological age. This device, the successor to the 1990s H-SCAN, is now an iOS-based tablet and has been endorsed by big names of the aging research field, such as Dr. George Church and Dr. David Sinclair; it can already be bought on the AgeMeter website and will be delivered to the crowdfunding campaign backers as early as September 4th.
Videos from Ending Age-Related Diseases, our conference that we held in New York City last July, are currently being released publicly; if you’re a Lifespan Hero, remember that you get early access! Thanks for supporting us!
Our own Elena Milova, tireless advocate for rejuvenation biotechnologies, has recently given a talk on the subject at the biggest Russian science festival, Geek Picnic, which was held in Saint-Petersburg last month. If you speak Russian, you can watch a video of her talk here.
Last month, we’ve had the pleasure to have Didier Coeurnelle from HEALES, who talked about the Longevity Film Competition and rejuvenation advocacy; we are also happy to share Elena Milova’s new interview with Alexandra Elbakyan, the creator of Sci-Hub, a website devoted to removing paywalls in science and allowing for the free dissemination of scientific information. Thanks to the crucial work of Alexandra, the world is finally starting to pay attention to the problem of restricted access to scientific knowledge; we’re proud to help her carry out this important job. Finally, we also have an interview with Daria Khaltourina, one of the many extraordinary people we’ve got to thank for the introduction of the new “ageing-related” extension code in the latest version of the International Classification of Diseases
The brain and Alzheimer’s disease
Neuroplasticity and neurogenesis—the brain’s ability to remold itself and create new neurons, respectively—are hotly debated topics in neuroscience; it is generally accepted that these two abilities decline over time, but it’s as of yet unclear how much they actually do. While it was believed that they both essentially come to a grinding halt once a certain age has been hit, new evidence is challenging that belief. It appears that neuroplasticity decline can be mitigated if you exercise your brain, similar to how physical exercise helps you preserve your fitness as you age; speaking of neurogenesis, as discussed on FA!, recent studies have reached opposing conclusions, finding evidence for the existence of adult human neurogenesis and lack thereof. An intriguing hypothesis, again pointed out by FA!, is that humans and other mammals with large brains may exhibit decreased or absent neurogenesis as an evolutionary consequence of losing olfactory function over time.
Having a clear picture of what actually happens with neurogenesis and neuroplasticity with age is important, because nobody wants to live longer only to eventually lose his or her mind; for similar reasons, it is also important to address neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s. The prevailing hypothesis—that the accumulation of amyloid-beta proteins triggers the disease—has been seriously challenged by innumerable failed clinical trials in which clearing amyloids has yielded no real benefits as well as by the existence of people with abundant amyloids but no symptoms of the disease. Other hypotheses, such as the possibility that Alzheimer’s disease might arise as the extreme consequence of lifelong, persistent infection, are coming forward. Still, clearing aggregate tau protein from the brains of murine models of late-stage Alzheimer’s seems to yield cognitive function improvements; some forms of the protein are associated with altered neuronal activity, and it’s possible, though not certain, that reducing tau aggregates may benefit human AD patients as well.
We’ve been talking a great deal about cellular senescence and senolytics since pretty much the beginning of LEAF; however, if you’re new to this hallmark of aging or if you need a reference page for your educational efforts, we recently published a brief review of the subject here.
Speaking of cellular senescence, senescence and cancer are often thought to be rival demons: the former is a state of zombie-like quiescence in which cells cease dividing, and the latter is uncontrolled, furious growth. Cellular senescence is likely to have evolved as a defense against cancer, as damaged cells that might end up becoming cancerous generally turn senescent before this can happen; however, researchers have recently taken this a step further, developing drugs that are capable of triggering senescence in already cancerous cells in certain types of murine tumors. Having many senescent cells in your body is not good for you, but having cancer is worse; assuming these new drugs will become a therapy, the trade-off is good, especially if senolytics will then be able to clear out the tumor cells turned senescent. On Fight Aging!, you can find further commentary on this news.
Another interesting news item on cellular senescence is also discussed on FA!—it appears that delivering hydrogen sulfide into cells in culture slows down the pace at which cells turn senescent. Whether clearing excess senescent cells or slowing down the pace of senescence is the better option remains to be seen, although simply slowing down senescence is likely to result in a delay of its negative effects instead of eliminating these effects once they have started manifesting.
Senescent cell ablation appears to ameliorate, among many other ailments, tau pathology; it’s exciting to see that addressing a single hallmark of aging might have a beneficial effect on a broad range of age-related conditions.
In addition to the two “traditional” senolytic approaches—small-molecule drugs and gene therapy—nanorobots offer a third option. Senescent cells in different tissues exhibit different properties, so different senolytics will be needed to target them; however, multifunctional nanorobots capable of targeting different types of senescent cells at once may be designed and employed to address cellular senescence.
It’s a well-known fact that the inside of a human body is anything but aseptic—like all plants and animals, we’ve got bacteria all over and inside us. In particular, bacteria living in your guts are essential for your well-being, allowing you to better process the food you ingest; however, our relationship with these microscopic creatures is not all unicorns and rainbows, as they appear to have a role in aging—more specifically, they seem to contribute to the chronic, age-related background inflammation known as “inflammaging”. As discussed in a review pointed out by Fight Aging!, changes in the gut microbial populations with age might also be a contributing factor in the emergence of sarcopenia and frailty—the loss of muscle mass and increased vulnerability to minor physical stressors. One intriguing hypothesis is that a reduced ability to process dietary proteins might translate into a reduced ability to synthesize new muscle tissue.
Targeting the microbiota may therefore be a viable option to ameliorate aging; for example, Salk researchers recently stumbled upon the discovery that depleting gut microbiota in mice leads to better insulin sensitivity. Granted, you definitely don’t want to deplete your gut microbiota, but less drastic interventions might be able to yield similar benefits in humans.
Over the past few years, Ichor Therapeutics has been making a name for itself in the rejuvenation biotech industry; besides actively conducting rejuvenation research and helping other startups in the field to thrive, the company has now teamed up with ESF, the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, to help graduate students train in researching drugs to treat age-related ailments.
Unity Biotechnology, a biotech company currently running a Phase 1 human clinical trial for its candidate senolytic drug UBX0101, has recently released its second quarter financial results. The financial position of the company is strong, and it hopes to share preliminary data of its trial in the first quarter of 2019.
Coming up in September
Paywall: The Business of Scholarship
The more that scientific research is widespread and freely accessible, the faster that researchers can make progress—including in the field of life extension. However, scientific papers are behind paywalls more often than not, forcing scientists and universities to spend significant amounts of money on buying papers, if only for the purpose of reviewing the existing literature involving their fields of research. Academic literature is a billion-dollar business, which, as you might recall, is being openly opposed by initiatives such as Alexandra Elbakyan‘s Sci-Hub; now, the topic is receiving further attention thanks to the forthcoming release of Paywall: The Business of Scholarship, a documentary revealing the flawed nature of the current system of scientific publishing. The documentary was conceived and directed by journalist and filmmaker Jason Schmitt of Clarkson University, and it features librarians, researchers, students, and open access publishers who share their opinions on the problem and its potential solutions.
“Twenty-five billion dollars a year goes into academic publishers—for-profit academic publishers,” Schmitt said to LEAF for the Rejuvenation Roundup Podcast. “Away from education, away from science, away from progress, this fuels these for-profit companies to have incredible profit margins, and we’re talking 35 to 40% profit margin, more than Facebook, more than Google, more than Apple Computers.” Schmitt added, “The future, I think, is pretty clear; there is no way that this system is going to continue to perpetuate itself in the manner it has.”
Jason contacted us seeking our permission to use an old interview with Alexandra; however, when Elena, who conducted it, took a look at the project, she was so impressed that she was determined to help the team get an original piece of footage featuring Alexandra Elbakyan. Our supporters Ivan Kondratiev and Josh Conway helped with the footage and translation, and we contributed the resulting material to the movie.
On September 5th, the global premiere of Paywall: The Business of Scholarship will take place at 5:30 PM at the Landmark Theatre in Washington D.C.; in October, there will be a screening in the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, where it will be a part of the annual festival in support of Open Science. Information about other screenings, which are planned in multiple countries, can be found here.
LEAF fully stands by the idea that scientific knowledge should be free and that paywalls should be abolished, and commends the initiative by Schmitt’s team; indeed, we will be streaming the movie’s premiere on September 5th (a couple hours later than the Paywall team’s premiere) on our Facebook page.
Tatjana Kochetkova, an expert in bioethics and human development, will hold a Lifespan-X lecture in Leiden, Netherlands. This event is part of our Lifespan-X series—Lifespan-branded events independently organized by our volunteers and supporters. More specific details are yet to be confirmed, so stay tuned for updates! We will also make an event page on Facebook with all the information you need.
Basel Life 2018
On September 11-14 in Basel, Switzerland, the Basel Life 2018 conference will take place. One of its many events will be the Aging and drug discovery symposium sponsored by Insilico Medicine and chaired by Dr. Morten Scheibye-Knudsen and Dr. Alex Zhavoronkov. This symposium will see leading experts in the field of aging research and top investors discussing the latest scientific discoveries as well as the possible commercialization of the fruits of longevity research.
Mechanisms of Aging and Age-Related Diseases
Elena Milova will be attending Mechanisms of Aging and Age-Related Diseases, an international educational event that will be held at Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology from September 30 to October 4, 2018. It is an extension of Biomembranes 2018, a conference intended to educate people about the science of the aging processes. We hope that Elena will get back with multiple interviews featuring the leading researchers.
Humans X Tech & BDYHAX East
There are also two events coming up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at which Ryan O’Shea, host of the Rejuvenation Roundup podcast, will be speaking. On September 20, 2018, Ryan will be moderating a panel on human augmentation at the Thrival Innovation & Music Festival’s “Humans X Tech” symposium, where the ethics of life extension will be discussed. Two days later, on September 22, Ryan will be speaking at BDYHAX East, which will explore bioethics and gene editing technologies. Tickets for both of these events are now available but are selling quickly.
It’s good to see that progress in the field of rejuvenation never really stops, even during a restful summer month; it’s exciting to think about what else this year might have in store. Stay tuned to find out!