A Winter Update from the Methuselah Foundation
The Methuselah Foundation is one of the more important small non-profits involved in steering the near future course of aging research and human longevity. It is generally the case that the larger non-profits in medical research fund the status quo only, and so it is up to more nimble and driven organizations to make the status quo better - to really change the world, in other words. Organizations like the Methuselah Foundation and its core of dedicated supporters lead the way, change minds, and steer the broader community towards new and better directions more likely to extend healthy lives sooner rather than later.
It is worth remembering that, like the SENS Research Foundation, the Methuselah Foundation grew and established its presence due to the generosity of hundreds of donors of largely modest means. Their support helped to ensure the Foundation's important role in the sweeping changes that have taken place in the field of aging research and its goals over the past decade, shifting the leaders in the field towards open support for treating aging as a medical condition and the goal of extending healthy life spans. In the years since spinning off the SENS Research Foundation, the Methuselah Foundation has focused more on tissue engineering, but that is far from the only research activity funded and promoted by the Foundation staff.
A recent update on the activities of the Methuselah Foundation turned up in my in-box today, and I think many of you will be most interested to see that the Foundation is now funding a biotech startup effort to clear senescent cells and thus remove their contribution to degenerative aging. Senescent cell clearance is on my list as the most likely of the SENS repair-based technologies to be implemented first, even though funding is very limited for this area of research, as (a) there are a range of groups working on the problem or aspects of the problem, and (b) all of the various technologies needed to assemble a viable treatment either exist already or are very close to realization. It is good to see the Methuselah Foundation stepping in to support this field.
2014 was a year to remember. With a $10,000 Methuselah Prize awarded to Dr. Huber Warner of the National Institute on Aging's Interventions Testing Program, the first six teams officially announced for the New Organ Liver Prize, and our first Organovo 3D printer awarded to the Yale School of Medicine, we've certainly been keeping busy.
Thanks to all of you, and especially to the passionate support of our many generous donors, we're also looking forward to an impactful 2015. We're still gathering more teams for the Liver Prize, exploring a possible New Organ Vasculature Challenge with federal agency partners, looking forward to the inaugural Organ Banking Summit in February, and much more.
We closed out last year by taking part in a successful $150,000 fundraiser for the SENS Research Foundation, and we're ringing in the new one with a founding investment in Oisin Biotechnology. We also look forward to sharing more illuminating conversations with you from around the world of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine on our blog, "The Bristlecone."
Backing Oisin Biotechnology
The Methuselah Foundation has become a founding investor in Oisin Biotechnology, Inc, an early-stage company that aims to provide targeted biological solutions to degenerative aging conditions. We are also now represented on Oisin's Board of Directors. Initial research and development at Oisin will focus on controlled removal of senescent cells that underlie certain degenerative aging conditions. Both proprietary treatment protocols as well as proprietary methods for delivery of biologics to affected cells will be employed. Oisin is currently performing in vitro studies to confirm the expected mode of action of its therapy.
"We invested in Oisin," Methuselah CEO Dave Gobel explained, "because of the promise of their highly targeted approach to removing senescent cells without causing collateral damage or side effects. To put it more colloquially, I like to think of this as 'getting the crud out' - one of our key themes at Methuselah." We hope this founding investment will enable Oisin to establish proof of principle (does it work in vitro or not?). If it does work, we believe that Oisin will become extremely important in the field of longevity science - and provide us with a mission-aligned solution that is industrializable by harnessing infotech, biotech, and the body's own systems. We'll keep you posted.
New Federal Grant Program for Organ Cryobanking
We're excited to announce that the Organ Preservation Alliance, one of New Organ's partner organizations, has informed the development of three new federal grant programs by the Department of Defense targeting complex tissue and organ cryobanking for transplantation. These three unique but complimentary "Small Business Innovation Research" (SBIR) grants, the first of their kind, will launch on January 15, 2015. Together, they could fund research for 20 or more U.S. teams, with strong candidates potentially receiving $3-$3.5 million across phase one and phase two awards. Congratulations to the Organ Preservation Alliance for its critical role in this landmark moment for the undervalued field of cryopreservation.
Bowhead Whale Study Published
We've seen great news coverage recently of the bowhead whale research we funded at the University of Liverpool, and the full paper by Dr. Joao Pedro de Magelhaes and his team is being published in the journal Cell Reports. According to Magelhaes, "The bowhead whale is the longest-lived mammal, possibly capable of living over 200 years. Thanks to generous support from the Methuselah Foundation, we sequenced the bowhead genome and transcriptome and performed a comparative analysis with other cetaceans and mammals. We found that changes in bowhead genes related to cell cycle, DNA repair, cancer, and ageing could all be biologically relevant."
Exploring c60oo and Cancer Growth
Ichor Therapeutics, Inc., an exciting pre-clinical biotechnology company funded in part by Methuselah donors, is preparing to commence pilot studies to investigate the effects of c60oo administration on human cancer proliferation in vivo. It has been theorized that c60oo may be a potent inhibitor of primary tumor growth or metastasis. Data about human leukemia growth rates in the presence and absence of c60oo is expected to pave the way for additional studies of c60oo's effects on a variety of tumor models. "We are grateful to the Methuselah Foundation," Ichor CEO Kelsey Moody said recently, "for providing much of the necessary funding for this project, without which this important research could not be completed."
I hope that Oisin Biotechnology eventually gets a stack of cash from a big pharma or biotech company to partner on their technology in clinical trials, which they can then plough back into other neglected areas.
They say they are only at the in-vitro stage. I think this will become more exciting if an animal model works out.
I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that the Campisi lab at the Buck Institute is involved in this technology directly.
No, the Buck is not involved with Oisin. We will be moving to in vivo studies as soon as the cell culture work is completed in about two to three months.
@Jim: that or Oisin Biotechnology could also spur further research in this field at competing companies. I would certainly better if Oisin got cash - but even if it merely provokes a renewed interest elsewhere, that would already have been a positive venture IMHO.
@ Gary - is there a web site we can look at? I did a Google search but nothing. Thanks.
Not yet; we are some months away from any overt public presence. You can reach me at gary dot hudson at oisinbio dot com but I can't say too much, naturally. Unless someone wants to invest... ;)
I wonder what the technology is - a small molecule drug, an antibody targeting a cell surface molecule, a nanoparticle, a CAR T Cell?
I also wonder what the target is?
I'm very interested to see what happens in this area. It would be nice to see some movement on senescent cells. The disorder they cause seems to be broad in the body and there's several diseases associated with their accumulation (Werner's Syndrome for example), so approval is not a problem.
I'm surprised clearing senescent cells is such a high priority. The body does this fairly well, no?
That's more-or-less sweeping up leaves after they've fallen from the tree. What we need to do is get more green leaves ON the tree (that aren't cancerous).
A better avenue of study - The effect of taking various forms of stem-cell from the body, growing a culture of each in telomerase, and then re-implanting them?
@ Donovan The problem is the body doesn't do such a great job "sweeping the leaves up" as you age and these Senescent cells sit about in tissue and secrete lots of nasty substances which cause damage beyond their small number. SASP which is the secretion can then cascade and effect nearby cells causing even more damage.
SENS was working on a Senescence Scrubber a few years ago that removes Senescent cells from blood but not heard much about since about 2010. I am hoping this is still being developed.
Putting more Green leaves on is less an issue, as you suggest stem cells or even telomere rejuvenation therapy could do this. CNIO and Stanford have both demonstrated techniques for restoring Telomere lengths via transient RNA.
When you put http://oisinbio.com/ into your browser address bar it leads you to Immunsoft's website (they presented at a couple of the SENS conferences). Are Oisin Bio and Immunsoft the same company or in a collaboration?