The longevity biotech industry revolves around the goal of increasing the period of life that a person spends in good health. There has been a rapidly expanding effort in recent years to develop drugs that target aging as a root cause of disease, and this type of biotechnology has come to be a very popular focus for many companies, leading to numerous anti-aging biotech startups popping up around the world.
The primary technology used when developing anti-aging therapies is epigenetic reprogramming, which involves the identification of specific sets of transcription factors that can induce changes in gene expression and cellular behavior. This effectively reverses or modifies the epigenetic markers associated with aging, rejuvenating cells and tissues, and potentially slowing down or reversing the effects of aging, and even age-related diseases, such as neurodegenerative diseases.
This technology has been tested in animal models, and there is evidence that it works, sparking considerable investment in startups seeking to rejuvenate humans. Here, in alphabetical order, we take a look at eight anti-aging biotech companies on a mission to extend lives and make age-related diseases, a thing of the past.
Despite being a startup, Altos Labs has already attracted much attention after it launched last year with $3 billion in capital – with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos reportedly being one of the key investors. According to the company, its mission is to restore cell health and resilience through cellular rejuvenation programming to reverse disease, injury, and disabilities that can occur throughout a person’s life.
The anti-aging biotech company is based in the U.S. in the San Francisco Bay Area and San Diego, and in the U.K. in Cambridge, while also having significant collaborations in Japan. Activity for the company is organized across the Altos Institutes of Science, which pursues deep scientific questions and integrates their findings into one collaborative research effort, and the Altos Institutes of Medicine, which captures knowledge generated about cell health and programming, and develops transformative medicines.
Altos’ immediate focus is to fund its scientists and researchers in order to properly understand rejuvenation, such as how to tailor reprogramming to see if it can rejuvenate animals without killing them, and whether the process can be carried out using ordinary drugs instead of through genetic engineering.
Based in Cambridge in the U.K., clock.bio is an anti-aging biotech startup developing novel regenerative medicines leveraging the natural ability of human pluripotent stem cells to prevent and treat age-related diseases. The company was founded by Mark Kotter, who is also the founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of bit.bio (a synthetic biology company), and launched out of stealth just last month after reaching proof-of-concept with $4 million in funding, with an immediate objective to decode all rejuvenation programs present in human cells, in order to build an atlas of disease and rejuvenation targets for clinical translation.
In fact, the anti-aging biotech is on track to decode the biology of human rejuvenation across the entire genome in 12 months, and it has already developed an aging model that force-ages human induced pluripotent stem cells and triggers their self-rejuvenation mechanism. Unbiased CRISPR screens on large samples of these cells allow for the identification of gene candidates that are causally relevant for cell rejuvenation.
clock.bio’s strategy includes proprietary aging-interventions for induced pluripotent stem cells, unbiased screens for rejuvenation biology, identification and validation of rejuvenation targets, and therapeutic lead prioritization and translation into clinical applications.
U.K.-based Genflow Biosciences is attempting to make use of gene therapy to halt or slow the aging process in both humans and dogs by reducing and delaying the incidence of age-related diseases. It believes that, by treating aging, it can contribute to decreasing healthcare costs and lessening the emotional and societal burden associated with an aging population.
The anti-aging biotech startup already has a lead compound, called GF-1002, which is a suspension of an adeno-associated virus vector-based (AAV-based) gene therapy for intravenous infusion. The company’s approach is to use AAV vectors to deliver copies of the Sirtuin-6 (SIRT6) gene variant, which is found in centenarians, into cells. Sirtuins are a group of proteins that play a vital role in regulating various cellular processes, with SIRT6 having gained particular attention for its possible role in promoting healthy aging.
Additionally, Genflow’s product pipeline also includes other innovative interventions in gene delivery; GF-3001, which provides topical delivery of SIRT6 to the skin, is intended for Werner Syndrome in humans, and GF-4001 is intended as a pivotal anti-aging treatment for dogs.
Life Biosciences cites aging as the biggest risk factor for most chronic diseases, and is therefore, targeting aging biology in its development of innovative therapies, pursuing a platform approach – with two core platforms – in order to develop therapeutics that can ultimately prevent, treat, and/or reverse multiple aging-related conditions.
The company’s epigenetic reprogramming platform – which is being used in preclinical studies for ophthalmic indications – reprograms the epigenome of older animals to resemble the epigenome of younger animals via expression of three Yamanaka factors, which are a group of protein transcription factors that play a vital role in the creation of induced pluripotent stem cells, and control how DNA is copied for translation into other proteins.
Meanwhile, Life Bioscience’s other platform is called the chaperone-mediated autophagy (CMA) platform; CMA is a process by which unwanted proteins are degraded in cells, with CMA activity declining during aging due to a reduced expression of a protein called LAMP2A, which leads to the accumulation of insoluble protein aggregates that disrupt cellular function.
The anti-aging biotech has identified novel small molecule oral compounds that increase the expression of multiple proteins in the CMA pathway, including LAMP2A, which means they therefore, also increase CMA activity. These CMA activator compounds have been shown to have efficacy in preclinical models of age-related diseases, including frontotemporal dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and retinal degeneration.
Having recently raised $40 million in a series A funding round, New Limit is another anti-aging biotech startup looking to develop epigenetic reprogramming therapies to treat age-related diseases with large unmet needs.
In order to reverse cellular aging in this manner, the company wants to use new epigenetics tools to reprogram cells so that they act younger, with an initial focus on T cells. To achieve this, it is taking advantage of great advancements in single cell genomics, epigenetic editing, and machine learning, which it says will help it overcome traditional roadblocks to epigenetic reprogramming. One of the main challenges for the company is figuring out how to shrink the functional performance delta between actual young cells and reprogrammed old ones.
New Limit was co-founded by Coinbase chief executive officer (CEO) Brian Armstrong, and aims to maintain a small team where every member actively contributes to both scientific work and company growth.
San Diego-based anti-aging biotech startup Rejuvenate Bio is aiming to unlock the power of gene expression and epigenetic reprogramming to reverse pre-existing heart disease, metabolic disease, and kidney failure in humans. Its approach is to push gene therapy beyond single gene disorders, to potentially make a significant impact in age-related chronic conditions, which it says drives the bulk of healthcare spending.
Earlier this year, the company claimed that it had used its reprogramming technology to successfully rejuvenate old mice and extend their lives. To achieve this, it used gene therapy to add three powerful reprogramming genes to the bodies of mice that were equivalent in age to 77-year-old humans. According to the company, after the treatment, the mice’s remaining life span doubled, with treated mice living another 18 weeks, on average, while control mice died within nine weeks. This meant that the treated mice lived about 7% longer.
The company is also conducting a gene therapy trial for mitral valve disease in dogs, in the hope of developing a novel cardio-protective gene therapy to stop the progression of heart failure.
In an ambitious attempt to add 10 years to the human lifespan, Retro Biosciences is initially focused on using cellular reprogramming, autophagy, and plasma-inspired therapeutics. It hopes to design therapies that will eventually be capable of multi-disease prevention.
The anti-aging biotech startup says that it has a molecule in its autophagy program that will enter the clinic in the next year, and in its plasma program, it is characterizing and optimizing plasma interventions in both preclinical and clinical settings, with the first candidate expected in two years time. Meanwhile, its cellular reprogramming effort is closest to fundamental research and farthest upstream in the mechanisms of aging, and it will work towards a clinical proof-of-concept over the next four years.
The company eased out of stealth mode in mid-2022, having secured $180 million in investment from OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, allowing it to head towards its first proof-of-concept, and secure operation of the company through the decade.
Rubedo Life Sciences
Rubedo Life Sciences, whose aim is to discover and develop medicines to keep people biologically young, uses a drug discovery platform that enables it to identify specific druggable targets, before developing them into therapeutics that selectively target the pathologic cells – such as senescent cells – that drive the aging process.
The platform is called Alembic, and is an AI-driven drug discovery platform based on a synergy between sophisticated computational algorithms and chemistry. It identifies druggable targets by leveraging single cell RNA sequencing and other omics data to identify the pathologic senescent cells unique to specific cell populations that emerge with age-related diseases.
The company has an intended pipeline of candidates for diseases such as age-related chronic dermatitis, respiratory conditions, and liver and kidney disorders. A few months ago, it announced that it had selected its first-in-class development candidate, called RLS-1496, for the treatment of dermatological conditions.
The anti-aging biotech market: looking ahead
It seems as though anti-aging biotech startups are all the rage at the minute, with the longevity industry gaining an influx of funding from investors, including aforementioned big names like Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, perhaps hoping to extend their own lives through investing in this sort of research. After all, millionaires and billionaires wanting to live forever is not an unfamiliar concept – both in science fiction and, now, in reality too.
However, despite the growing number of players focused on anti-aging therapies, epigenetic reprogramming is a technique that is still very much being tried and tested, with the science still at an early stage, restricted to animal models only. But with the emergence of so many anti-aging startups now working heavily on research in this area, we may see epigenetic reprogramming being tested in clinical trials within the next decade.