Today I was prodded into noticing that Genescient has raised more angel funding for their work on longevity genes and the potential manipulation thereof. Congratulations are due; it isn't easy raising funds in the present market environment, and the Genescient folk did so whilst clearly stating they are working to extend healthy human life span. That last point isn't quite the albatross it used to be, but it's still a challenge in some quarters. So the more people who stand up to openly and seriously talk about extending human life span the better.
Genescient Corporation, a California genomic-health biotechnology company, received $500,000 in new angel investment, to help commercialize the company’s technology and to fund further research. The investment was made by private investors with an interest in the rapidly growing field of nutrigenomics, based on the science of epigenetics and its promise of healthy life extension. A spokesman for the investors, Douglas Arends, stated: "We are especially interested in the genomics work Genescient has completed to identify human genes of aging. This knowledge, gained from decades of selective breeding of model animals for longevity, will to lead to the production of nutrigenomic compounds in 2010. The plan is to build on this work and, in later years, to develop drugs aimed at treating age-associated chronic diseases and provide patients with healthy life extension. We are predicting that Genescient will become a leader in its field, with the knowledge that it now has providing it with a significant head start."
It is, I think, a sign of the times that $500,000 is enough to fund meaningful amounts of work in biotechnology. Go back a decade or two and that sum of money was a rounding error in the business of deciphering and manipulating human biochemistry. But biology and computing continue to be closely twined together, the cost and pace of research benefiting from the powerful and continuing growth in processing power per dollar.
Personally I'm not so hot on nutrigenomics; pills and metabolic tweaking continue to look to me like the road to nowhere, or at best the slow boat to China. I think the most useful output generated by Genescient's present phase of work will be knowledge that can be used to validate and adjust course on other research programs aimed at reversing aging:
I think the most useful output for the long term arising from the work taking place at Genescient will likely be a wealth of data on how gene expression changes occurring with aging relate to forms of biochemical damage that are thought to cause aging. Are gene expression changes responses to damage, or are they genetic programs that themselves cause damage? Or both, or neither? How important is each particular change? These are vital questions if your goal is to revert gene expression changes in search of beneficial effects, but this data will also help those who seek to directly repair the damage itself. There's no such thing as useless information in biotechnology.