Atlas Regeneration Launches, Yet More Focus on Drug Discovery to Slow Aging

Anthony Atala, known for his work on tissue engineering is launching a new company, Atlas Regeneration to focus on pharmacology related to aging. This is in many ways similar to Human Longevity Inc., and it seems a pity to me that someone who was doing something more useful is now going to focus on something less useful when it comes to advancing the state of medicine for healthy longevity.

Numerous groups are now getting into the field of longevity-related genetics and drug discovery with the aim of very modestly slowing down aspects of the aging process. It is probably the case that there is money to be made here, and there is certainly much more data to be gathered on the precise details of the operation of cellular metabolism and its relationship with natural variations in longevity. I do not see it as a viable path towards meaningfully lengthening human life spans, however. Few if any of these initiatives are involved in attempts on the damage repair approach to aging that characterizes SENS, and thus I expect their work to do little but add to our knowledge of metabolism, or move the research community a few steps closer to being able to capture some of the well-established benefits of calorie restriction or exercise through drug treatments. These are small potatoes compared to the rejuvenation that might be achieved through periodic repair of the cell and tissue damage that causes aging, rather than merely slowing down its accumulation.

Atlas Regeneration Inc, a company dedicated to developing novel software platforms and algorithms for drug discovery relating to regenerative medicine and stem cell research, has officially launched. Atlas has partnered with InSilico Medicine, a bioinformatics company, which employs its state of the art Geroscope platform to select and rate personalized anti-aging therapies and identify new drug candidates in longevity.

Aging is an issue that effects all people around the globe universally, but as the babyboomer generation ages, the stress that it places on society becomes greater and the need develop methods for people to remain productive as they age rises in turn. Aging is a very complex multifactorial process that cannot be stopped or reversed by a simple combination of drugs, which is why it is important to develop personalized treatments tailored to individual subjects. The pharmaceutical industry needs a platform to effectively utilize and clinically implement stem cells technology.

"We built our platform, Regeneration Intelligence, on years of experience in regenerative medicine and pharmacology, de novo organ regeneration, body-on-the chip technology just to mention a few of them with a one single goal: develop a reliable tool to convert multi-omics data from individual patient's tissues into unified drug score to predict the effectiveness of targeted compounds and improve clinical decision making, unified iPSC lines score to predict differentiation potential and evaluate clinical safety. We are reinventing this system for drug discovery in regeneration medicine and aging to more effectively employ big data to find solutions for aging, competing with the Google's Calico and Human Longevity companies, to deliver hope that we may see the time when our mutual efforts will start saving lives and increase life span via regeneration in adult humans."

Some of the ideas behind the company's bioinformatics platforms for both regeneration, iPS and aging are rather simple: analyze all available omics profiles of "cells-in-progress" (iPSC line under evaluation, cells/tissues under treatment and so on) and targeted counterpart cells in mature healthy tissues or organs, run computer simulations based on proprietary pathway map to see what drugs or treatments make the old or undifferentiated cell get as close to the norm/healthy counterparts as possible and then validate the results on human cells and model organisms. The same approach may be employed to personalize the drug regimen for individual patients. The core parts of the technology are proprietary signaling pathway map, a unique scoring algorithm along with well-developed biological models which allows us to use all-inclusive gene expression analysis, including microRNA, methylation and proteomics modules among others, and a comprehensive constantly updated drug database.

The position that aging needs personalized treatments is something I see as nonsense, and a symptom of the research community being focused on entirely the wrong approach to the problem. We all age for the same reasons, the damage that causes aging is the same in all of us. The therapies to repair that damage can be the same for all of us, mass produced and cheap once established. Only if you are trying to mess around with the operation of metabolism to slow aging or compensate for damage without actually repairing it - a futile effort, doomed to expensive failure and marginal benefits - do you need to care about exactly how the spiral of simple damage creating complex consequences takes place in any given individual.



I realize that most of us want more work to be going towards rejuvenation therapies but this is what we're getting for the time being. That being said, something is likely better than nothing, and hopefully these medicines that will slow aging could at least be used together with a first pass rejuvenation therapy such as senescent cell removal to buy people more time until a full rejuvenation package comes out. We don't know when that will be (which is why I also would like to see more work in rejuvenation) so any extra time you get could make a difference.

Posted by: Ham at September 9th, 2015 7:50 AM

@Ham: Maybe you are right, but the massive focus on this kind of research/business takes away researchers and (above all) money from much more useful research/business, all for health gains that probably don't surpass those of exercise/CR. Progress don't simply happen by waiting for it. If the slowing of aging continues to be the mainstream, rejuvenation treatments will be much more years away in the future, probably surpassing the longevity gains from that slowing of aging.

Posted by: Antonio at September 9th, 2015 8:26 AM

Then it makes the work of SENS and funding projects via all the more paramount.

Posted by: Steve H at September 9th, 2015 8:37 AM

It's not the "messing with metabolism" thing that's the problem here; it's that what they're claiming to do seems to be a bunch of buzzwords slammed together without any regard for whether or not it makes sense or is remotely feasible.

"develop a reliable tool to convert multi-omics data from individual patient's tissues into unified drug score to predict the effectiveness of targeted compounds and improve clinical decision making"

Unified drug score? You don't "score" drugs. They either have a functioning method of action or they don't.

"run computer simulations based on proprietary pathway map to see what drugs or treatments make the old or undifferentiated cell get as close to the norm/healthy counterparts"

You what? You're going to run computer simulations about living cells to evaluate drug effectiveness? Exactly how many qubits of quantum computing power do you have over there, and what's going to run these simulations, a strong AI? If Google said it was going to do this, I might believe it- but some startup, which doesn't seem to have the best grasp of English and is conflating too many ideas? No. Not happening.

This isn't a "mess with metabolism" or a "repair fundamental damage" company. This is a "take investors' money and go bankrupt" company.

Posted by: Slicer at September 9th, 2015 8:40 AM

I see that Atala is in the Research Advisory Board of SRF. So what happened? Why is he not pursuing a damage repair approach anymore? Surely he knows about SENS details.

Posted by: Antonio at September 9th, 2015 8:44 AM

Slicer, yeah, that's another problem. Anyway, what they seem to say (I think) is that they will gather epidemiological data about genetic differences that affect longevity and then mix that data with knowledge about pathways researched by them (and kept secret inside the company) using computers in order to adapt them to the specific genome/epigenome of the patient. But yeah, it's too vague.

Posted by: Antonio at September 9th, 2015 9:05 AM

I don't disagree with you Antonio. But unfortunately we don't really get to tell companies what to spend their money on, or what the most viable approach is. Most companies like the safest path, with the least amount of risk. All we can do is donate to SENS, and back things like whats currently on I'd love it if everyone was working on repair and rejuvenation but that doesn't seem to be the case. Maybe that will change when actual rejuvenation is shown.

I wonder if the continual backing of the slowing aging method is almost a form of damage control or something along those lines, so they don't promise too much, or so more people are comfortable with the idea... since we all know the typical reaction people have with interfering with aging. I realize this idea may be a little bit out there, but Aubrey himself has said things about people being conservative out of fear of getting hopes up.

Posted by: Ham at September 9th, 2015 10:05 AM

I am with Slicer its nonsense buzzwords designed to attract investors instead of working on the problem. Big data has it's place in research but there is far too much focus on that instead of hands on bench work.

Posted by: Steve H at September 10th, 2015 6:20 AM

@Antonio: Atala is certainly still pursuing damage-repair: look at his research profile at Wake Forest, look at what WFIRM (which he leads) is actually doing, and look at what the SRF Summer Scholars interns did in WFIRM labs this last summer. On the side, he also has this personalized medicine initiative to make better use (he thinks) of existing and emerging drugs. The latter doesn't undermine the former, and it's if nothing else probably a shorter route to market

Posted by: Michael at September 10th, 2015 12:04 PM

Michael, I understand this guy has excellent credentials. Wake Forest is probably one of the biggest names in organ regeneration.

But it looks like he's biting off way, way more than he can chew here. He's talking about simulating cells (good luck!), about using data from tissues. The problem is that the data isn't good enough, at least not yet, because the underlying biology isn't thoroughly enough understood- and if it were understood, we wouldn't be talking about nebulous "scores", we'd be talking about "Oh, you have this mutation, so we can do this thing here to your cells to fix this other thing and make them behave this way now." - which is the ideal of targeted therapy. Trying to score iPSCs has the same problem. How does a "score" tell anyone anything about the mutations and epimutations in any stem cell?

He's taking a lot of blurry, incomplete information and combining it into more blurry, incomplete information and hoping to get something useful out of that. Oh, and he hasn't even hired the people he'd actually need to do that (take a look at his site).

So, what he's doing doesn't seem to be feasible, it doesn't seem to be helpful, and he doesn't seem to have the means to get started.

Posted by: Slicer at September 10th, 2015 2:57 PM

Michael, thanks for the info. Nice to hear that he is continuing his work on stem cells.

Posted by: Antonio at September 10th, 2015 3:11 PM
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