When Nir Barzilai specialized in anti-aging science 30 years ago, it was a ray of hope., Now an Israeli-American scientist believes the world is about to turn hope into reality by discovering revolutionary drugs that halt the effects of aging that were once thought to be inevitable.
Following a promising UK study with real patients, the director of the Institute for Research on Aging at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York plans to conduct a huge clinical trial to test whether metformin, An affordable generic diabetes drug can extend lifespan by several years.
If regulators approve metformin to combat aging, Barzilai believes the big Pharmaceutical and biotech companies will definitely jump into the fray Longevity
The fantasy of living forever has been around for centuries. Although we still cannot avoid death, we have already learned to anticipate it: Science dramatically improved life expectancyFirst with more mundane measures like sewers and vaccinations, and later with new drugs to deal with chronic conditions. In the UK, life expectancy at birth almost doubled between 1841 and 2011.,
but what now Many people spend their last decades in poor healthScientists like Barzilai not only try to increase life expectancy, but also see how many years we stay healthy.
Although, Barzilai is still looking for money to finance the clinical trial.With a cost of between $50 and $75 million (mdd), that could last four or six years. To date, it has already secured $22 million, 9 of them coming from the United States National Institutes of Health.
Raising money for research is difficult. Investors in the healthcare sector typically seek short-term returns, which is highly unlikely in the case of metformin, whose patent has long expired. Governments, for their part, prioritize disease research.
Billionaires from the tech sector have entered this vacuum Such as Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Israeli entrepreneur Yuri Milner and, through Alphabet, Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who are funding new models that aim to combine the best of business and education without short-term pressures. have to combine. Return. Barzilai expects some of these investors to make a sales pitch for the project. In an upcoming conference on longevity.
Billionaires, enticed by the idea of living longer and longer, finance a sector that will not thrive without them. But Christopher Wareham, an expert at Utrecht University who studies the ethology of aging, say there is a danger Advances in the science of longevity widen the gap in health between rich and poorMoney and power.
Altos Lab raised the dollar in its first round of funding.
Tack Tick: A Biological Clock in Reverse
As the field of longevity research expanded, scientists came together to ask the most fundamental questions: What is old age?
James Pear, CEO of Cambrian BioPharma, which operates as an incubator and invests in companies dedicated to longevity, says that The “North Star” in this field is the creation of a new generation of preventive drugs. Which, in his opinion, will have the same impact on human health as vaccines and antibiotics.
Before developing these drugs, scientists have to investigate what happens at the cellular level. an important finding was Cells’ biological clock can be reversed by “rejuvenation factors”. Which allows diseases to be reversed. The second was that senescent cells tend to accumulate in older people—they get old, no longer dividing, but refuse to die—and cause health problems.
But most of these discoveries have been made in animals. Clinical testing of these hypotheses in humans presents enormous challenges. Time and regulation, since aging is not defined as a disease.
Although Barzilai believes metformin can extend lifeYour Clinical Trial Will Treat To show that the drug delays a number of diseases including stroke, heart failure, cancer and dementia, as well as death.
but By far the biggest hurdle is getting enough money to finance Large clinical trials to accelerate this exploration and find other factors that affect aging.
The Saudi royal family will invest a dollar a year in the Hevolution Foundation, on the condition that the projects are democratic
funding ‘search engine’
When Rick Klausner began fundraising for Altos Labs, instead of presenting potential shareholders with a list of projects and a calendar of milestones, the former director of the US National Cancer Institute He was hoping they would invest in what he called the “Discovery Engine”.
Their sales pitch was that Altos would be hiring the best minds in the business. — including Hal Barron, formerly GSK’s chief scientific officer — and set them free. Working in a more collaborative way than academically, they will tackle the big problems around cell rejuvenation with the ambition of reversing diseases.
And it turned out: The company raised $3 billion, a record in the life sciences sectorThe round is led by Arch Venture Partners and reportedly includes funding from Bezos and Milner, co-founder of Mail.Ru and founder of technology investment firm DST Global.
baron says Money will make them fail many times in achieving their goal: An “incredibly new way of thinking” for reversing disease. “If we had a typical $60 million or $100 million investment, it wouldn’t make sense to really try to address this problem,” he explains.
Alphabet and AbbVie pledge to invest in Calico Biotech
To be released in early 2022, Altos only known for well funded experiments Who try to turbocharge anti-aging science. The first was Calico Life Sciences, an Alphabet company founded in 2013, where Barron leads research.
Robert Nelson, co-founder of Arch Venture Partners, says the company only wanted very long-term investors. His group may hold the Altos shares for 10 to 15 years, if needed, although he believes that Other investors will see the value long before they land on the “Holy Grail”.,
Jonathan Lewis, Calico’s chief business officer, says a “funding piece” from Alphabet, then known as Google, This allowed the company to focus on early biology when it launched in 2013.
Since then, it has received funding from the pharmaceutical company AbbVie. The partnership was renewed twice, and is now Both Alphabet and AbbVie have committed to invest $3.5 billion.
Today, Calico has three potential drugs in early-stage clinical trials.
ethics of private investigation
well funded start-up already Sparks debate about whether governments keep their scientific priorities in mind Consequences of transferring more science to private institutions.
government funding is increasing, But it is still far from matching the investments of organizations such as Altos. The US National Institutes of Health has a division devoted to aging, but the bulk of its budget over the past decade has been devoted primarily to Alzheimer’s.
wareham, Bioethicist Says We Must Move Away From “The Disturbing Image Of These Billionaires” who look like vampires, cook potions and experiment on themselves”, and feeling that even if they have their own interests, they can “afford to make too many mistakes”, which governments cannot.
Governments also contribute in less obvious ways. Lewis calls UK ‘presenter’ by creating UK Biobank (UK Biobank), A database of genetic and health information with half a million participants, It has proved so useful that Calico warrants further research to better understand disease progression in older adults.
,Some worry that private companies may restrict access to innovation, As do pharmaceuticals with higher drug prices. As anti-aging science comes to market, big ethical questions are going to arise about equity in the distribution of new treatments.
Mahmoud Khan, executive director of the Hevolution Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to longevity research backed by the Saudi royal family that has pledged to invest $1 billion per year, says his vision is “Prolong healthy life for the benefit of all humanity, In order not to widen the gap in life expectancy between rich and poor, Hevolution only finances projects that can be “democratized”.
Altos says it is committed to working with the healthcare ecosystem on access and equity.
Ronald Kohansky of the US National Institute on Aging says that scientists in the Renaissance depended on the pocketbooks of the wealthy, Today Western governments support open science, To accelerate innovation and encourage wider access.
“Not all those who got big salary offers from Altos Labs went through. Some prefer to live in the academic world”, he says and adds People with private funding are not subject to the same “liability” as those with public funding.: Make sure their searches are accessible and that any positive results are within reach of all.
“If you do something to earn money, you optimize your earnings. That’s capitalism,” he says.