The biotech startups of the core longevity industry, founded by the entrepreneurs who are regulations in the English-language conference circuit, are largely US companies. This is the way of the world in the biotech industry in general. The non-US participants include startups of British, Russian, and other origins, though it is often the case that when a company achieves some success it moves to where its backers and allies are found. For reasons relating to the historical interests of local research communities, and current interests of local venture funds, companies tend to be clustered in a few countries rather than being more evenly spread. The United Kingdom includes a number of research communities working on portions of aging relevant to therapeutic development. It is also the case that Juvenescence is based in the UK, and London is the center of the sizable advocacy and funding network associated with its principals.
In these articles, Longevity.technology takes a brief look at a couple of early stage UK-based biotech startups that are focused on the treatment of aging. They are not the only ones; I am aware of a few other groups at earlier stages in their progression from academic laboratory to launching a startup. It isn’t unusual that both of the startups noted here have an interest in senescent cells: the role of cellular senescence in driving degenerative aging is a very active area of development. It is also the basis for a market that is potentially so large that dozens of companies could find success here in the years ahead. The animal data for elimination of senescent cells as a basis for rejuvenation therapies is very compelling, and the human data obtained to date is promising.
Five Alarm Bio is founded by Dr William Bains, a scientist and entrepreneur with a 30-year track record in research into the fundamentals of biology and commercialisation of those discoveries. Dr Bains attended an anti-aging conference in November 2014, which is where he had his eureka moment that led to the creation of Five Alarm Bio. “While thinking why the speaker in a talk had got it all wrong, I had a flash of insight how the chemistry and the aging fitted, and the basic idea was born. It took another year to flesh out why this was a business, and we incorporated in 2016.”
“We are in the research stage, about to embark on a major program of chemical synthesis to optimise our initial probe molecule. All the data so far has been seed-funded research in vitro. We have got good data to show that the probe molecule we are using a) is non-toxic on prolonged use, b) slows the rate at which cells age in vitro, and c) may reduce the damaging effects that senescent cells can have on the cells around them.”
Dr Bains explains that all the work is done on primary human cells, which he feels is the best model for human cellular aging (other than people), but it is still in the petri dish, not in an animal. Five Alarm Bio’s next steps are to secure broad patent coverage of its mechanism of action and on the optimum molecules to take forward. In terms of specific targets for the company’s technology, its initial proof of concept experiments were on cell senescence, and so is looking at other targets where cell senescence is important, but Dr Bains is also keen to explore its potential benefit in Alzheimer’s.
The market for the development of anti-senescence therapeutics is on fire and we’ve spoken to a number of companies working in this field in recent months. The latest of these to come to our attention is Biosens, a British-German biotech start-up focused on the discovery and production of performance and longevity enhancing products. Founded in 2013, Biosens originally focused on agricultural applications, but refocused on human therapeutics early 2017 with the goal of making longer and healthier lives an attainable and affordable reality.
While still relatively early stage, the company already has three therapeutic products in its pipeline, including therapies for cell rejuvenation, muscle regeneration and cognitive improvement. “Aging is characterized by accumulated damage in stem cells and somatic cells causing their senescence as well as pathogenic factors in blood causing chronic inflammation. Reactive oxygen species accumulation, DNA damage, epigenetic alterations, protein aggregation, and telomere shortening are major causes of cell senescence. Our lead candidate works by rejuvenating the stem cell pool while simultaneously removing damaging senescent cells.”