Genescient on Genescient

As a companion piece to my opinions on Genescient from a year and a half ago, you might look at a recent h+ Magazine article in which one of the company VPs provides an overview of their present work:

In this article, I describe our efforts at Genescient LLC in Irvine, CA to develop strategies to delay aging and age-related disease. Genescient's primary business focus is on the development of pharmaceuticals for age-related diseases, but in conjunction with its spinoff firm Life Code LLC, it has provided testing services for the development of nutraceuticals based on its unique genomics platform. Our findings can be summarized as follows:

  • Aging is linked to altered expression in more than a hundred genes;

  • We employed artificial intelligence algorithms combined with animal longevity assays to screen for wide-spectrum herbal extracts that extend lifespan;

  • We succeeded in doubling [fruit fly] lifespan using a novel class of nutrigenomic supplements that modulate genes involved in both aging and age-related disease.
  • It's an interesting piece. My take on Genescient remains much the same: their work is a very efficient next generation approach to what is a comparatively ineffective course of action in regards to aging. In this it epitomizes the mainstream of aging and longevity research - the development of ever more sophisticated methodologies aimed at slowing down the aging process through manipulation of metabolism. Sadly, however, any foreseeable method of slowing aging will be of little use to people who are already old ... and none of us are getting any younger as we wait on progress in research and development.

    Genescient generates a raft of genetic and other information that will be useful throughout the life science field - including aging research - regardless of the outcome of their other work. The company will also make the founders a large pot of money if there's any justice in the world, given that they are effectively a next generation Sirtris. But none of this changes the fact that, from the perspective of progress towards extending human life, all that investment would be far better spent on SENS.

    I say that because what we want to see are the biotechnologies of rejuvenation, not mere slowing of aging. Given that aging is an accumulation of biological damage, it seems clear that the future of human longevity will be overwhelmingly determined by methods of biological repair, not by methods of modestly slowing down the pace of damage. Any working repair methodology will produce a degree of rejuvenation, and it can be used over and again as the damage slowly returns - unlike a change in metabolism, which has a limited benefit and cannot turn back the clock.

    If the longevity research community continues to spend the present majority of its time on ways to slow aging, then we're all going to age to death with very few additional years to show for that research investment. It's that simple.

    Comments

    The question is - whether merely a "damage repair" is sufficient if the expression of relevant genes is tuned in the wrong way (what actually seems to be the main cause of aging, not the damage that comes afterwards)?
    If reducing telomeres causes rapid aging in mice and then restoring them - a reversal of aging symptopms, couldn't be that "tweaking" the pathways (which are drifting away from the most optimal state due to the lack of the pressure of natural selection) to how they "should" be to keep organism young would bring a similar result as that one with mice?
    Just pondering the ideas...

    Posted by: Vx at January 25th, 2011 2:00 PM

    Research into ageing will gather momentum when profit-seeking businesses such as Genescient are able to provide a return to its shareholders. Using evolution as a metaphor, life didn't jump from single celled organisms to mammals in one step. Today's life is built on the successes of the past. Rejuvenation business will be built upon the successes that past of some future we cannot easily imagine now.

    Another example is the evolution of the internet. Back in 1999 there were a lot of fantastic business plans, which failed, together with the end of that bubble. It was only through careful investment in infrastructure driven by profit incentive that many of those old business plans can now be dusted off and made reality. The technologies being commercialised today are even more fantastic and exciting than most people dreamed of ten years ago.

    Within biotechnology, dramatic life extension will come about first by investing in technologies that can provide near term benefits. The knowledge humanity accrues from that experience will form the building blocks of a new rejuvenation industry. Business, like life, like the accumulation of human knowledge is evolutionary.

    The biggest challenge in delivering on the promise of life extension is in recruiting the capitalists, visionary, high quality entrepreneurs and C-level executives who will make the dreams of the cheerleaders a reality.

    Damian Crowe
    former CEO, Genescient Corporation

    Posted by: Damian Crowe at February 4th, 2011 4:14 AM

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