BioViva is a small group that recently announced they have moved ahead with a human test of telomerase and myostatin-related gene therapies as a potential method to modestly slow the effects of the aging process. Their initial goals are to get things moving in this part of the field by taking this step forward, observing the results, and raising funding for further development efforts to try to lower the costs of this sort of approach. The BioViva CEO Liz Parrish, who is also the initial test subject, recently hosted an AMA (ask me anything) event at Reddit's /r/futurology community. Her comments below are lightly edited for continuity, since they are pulled from numerous distinct answers to questions posted by the community:
I am patient zero. I will be 45 in January. I have aging as a disease. To take on this role myself was the only ethical choice. I am happy to step up. I do feel we can use these therapies in compassionate care scenarios now but we will have to work them back into healthier people as we see they work as preventive medicine.
The genes targeted are human telomerase reverse transcriptase (hTERT) and follistatin (FST). In animal models neither FST nor hTERT have increased the risk of cancer. We expect to see the same result on myself, and to that effect we are measuring all known cancer biomarkers. The gene therapies on my body are to measure the effects on humans. There is plenty of animal research to support these gene therapies but no one was conducting human tests. We are using both visual biomarkers, MRI and a panel of blood and tissue testing including work on telomere length and epigenetic testing. We are collecting as much data as we can, but unfortunately we currently don't have the coverage rate for this therapy, how much of the tissue of the body is affected. Depending on the tissue and vector used we ultimately expect to see similar rates of transfection as seen in mice, which is somewhere between 5 to 60%.
We are working as hard as we can to bring it to the world as quickly and safely as possible. We will will evaluate monthly and within 12 months we will have more data. If the results are good we hope to have something to the general public, that is cost acceptable, in 3-5 years. Our goal is to build laboratories that will have the mission of a gene therapy product at a reduced cost. Gene therapy technology is much like computing technology. We had to build the super computer which cost $8 million in 1960. Now everyone has technologies that work predictably and at a cost the average person can afford. We need to do the same with these therapies. What you will get in 3-5 years will be vastly more predictable and effective that what we are doing today and at a cost you or your insurance can cover .
We need a lab that works solely to bringing those costs down. We would need about $1 - 1.5 million to build one lab to focus on this. We can expand as needed. I would love to crowdfund this project but I do not know how to get good results at that scale - I think the price tag is high for that modality. We are raising investment to do offshore clinical trials. Many USA companies do this. If we can cut costs we will be able to bring back a treatment that people can afford.