Four companies that create a pill for old age
Margarita Fedorova, +1
According to UN forecasts, by 2050 every sixth earthling will be over 65 years old. But scientists are already looking for drugs that can prolong youth. The anti—aging race is led by four companies from the United States, the first country in the world to allow testing anti-aging drugs on humans.
Year of creation: 2021
Attracted investments: over $3 billion
The startup is engaged in partial cellular reprogramming technologies that allow cells to be rejuvenated to their embryonic state. The main value of the so-called stem cells is that they are the material from which internal organs, skin and nerve endings are formed. Scientists are confident that this technology can be used not only to regenerate or restore diseased tissues, but also to rejuvenate the entire body.
In January 2022, Altos Labs attracted the largest investments in the longevity industry: Jeff Bezos, the founder of the online retailer Amazon and the aerospace company Blue Origin, invested $3 billion in the startup. Other investors of the project include a Russian entrepreneur, a former co—owner Mail.Ru Yuri Milner.
Altos Labs has assembled a truly stellar team: its CEO was Hal Barron, president of the British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, and the board of directors included several Nobel laureates, among them physiologist Shinya Yamanaka, who discovered the method of reprogramming cells, and biochemist Jennifer Dowdna, who developed a tool for editing the CRISPR/Cas9 genome.
Calico Life Sciences LLC
Year of creation: 2013
Attracted investments: over $1 billion
The company was founded by Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Together with the pharmaceutical giant AbbVie, they created a research center in 2013. According to various estimates, Google has invested more than $1 billion in Calico Life Sciences LLC. Also among its investors is the head of Apple's board of directors, Arthur Levinson.
The scientists collaborating with the company focused their attention on age-related diseases, including cancer and neurodegenerative disorders. In 2021, AbbVie extended its contract with Calico Life Sciences LLC: the parties announced that they were ready to invest $ 500 million in the project. The parent company will be responsible for research and early development until 2025, as well as for the promotion of joint projects in the second phase of clinical trials until 2030. The pharmaceutical holding will provide support for scientific and clinical developments and subsequent monetization of drugs.
During the collaboration, AbbVie and Calico Life Sciences LLC have developed more than 20 programs for the treatment of oncological and neurodegenerative diseases at an early stage. However, the partners do not disclose details.
It is known that Calico has focused on the study of inhibitors (substances that inhibit or delay physiological and physico-chemical processes) of PTPN2. Turning them off stops the development of cancerous tumors.
Year of creation: 2009
Attracted investments: over $200 million
Unity Biotechnology's investors include PayPal co—founder Peter Thiel and billionaire Jeff Bezos, who invested in Altos Labs. The main achievement of the company is the UBX1325 senolitic. This is the world's first anti-aging drug, which in mid-August 2022 during the second phase of clinical trials showed its effectiveness. 18 weeks after a single injection of the drug, vision improved in patients suffering from diabetic macular edema of the eye.
Senolytics are able to detect old or damaged cells in the body and kill them. This makes it possible to reduce both inflammation and the risk of cancer, since it is weakened cells that can mutate, becoming cancerous. Usually the immune system calculates them and destroys them, but if there is too much damage, as, for example, in old age, some of the "bad" cells are able to hide and continue to exist.
In an interview with MIT Technology Review in 2018, one of the world's leading biologists and Unity Biotechnology scientist Judith Campisi noted that senolytics will not be able to significantly increase life expectancy, but people will die healthier.
Year of creation: 2017
Attracted investments: over $63.8 million
This company, like Altos Labs, works with stem cells, betting on such a variety of them as pluripotent (UCS). AgeX Therapeutics claims that they have the ability to endlessly copy themselves, that is, they are "immortal". According to scientists, adult stem cells, on the contrary, are mortal and have a much smaller scaling potential compared to UCS. The company's technology for working with UCS is called PureStem.
AgeX Therapeutics also works with the human genome — the iTR technology developed by scientists "turns on and off" the genes of reversion, or reverse mutation, which allows to rejuvenate the tissues of the body. In addition, the company is testing methods aimed at treating age-related metabolic disorders, in particular type II diabetes, and restoring aging heart cells.
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