Fight Aging! Invests in Oisin Biotechnologies

As I mentioned in yesterday's interview with Gary Hudson of Oisin Biotechnologies, I'm pleased to be able to say that Fight Aging! participated in the recent funding round for this senescent cell clearance startup. It was an unexpected opportunity to support this important line of SENS rejuvenation research, and will be my principle material contribution to the cause this year. From the point of view of where the money goes, there is actually little to no difference between investing in an early stage startup and making charitable donations to a laboratory group. In both cases the money buys research: lab time, reagents, mice, and the efforts of scientists. There is no rule that says a particular study has to be carried out before or after the point at which non-profit labwork transitions to for-profit labwork; where the work happens in the typical chronology of clinical translation is very much a matter of circumstance and the character of those involved. The closer things come to a working prototype, the more likely that someone will launch a company.

I consider it to be just as important to support the development of nascent SENS companies in their early stages as it is to fund the foundational work required prior to the point at which founding a startup becomes practical. An important part of the future of the rejuvenation biotechnology field is to create a virtuous cycle in which which an ecosystem of growing companies feeds new funding back into fundamental research. The ideal situation for such a company is the one for Oisin Biotechnologies, in which the people and organizations with the largest ownership stakes and the earliest investment are all SENS insiders who are going to pour any realized gains back into research in one way or another. As for all startups in biotechnology, these are long bets, and there must be many of them in order to catch the few that spark into lasting flame. Most will fail, leaving only their research results, and the ones that succeed may take five years or so to get to the point at which funds can meaningfully flow back to research.

Ah, but ... all it takes is one SENS startup to do well enough, and, provided it is run by the right people, it will sweep up and carry forward all of the rest of the SENS agenda. One thing to remember about SENS rejuvenation biotechnology is that it is very cheap in comparison to, say, traditional drug development. At this point finishing the SENS agenda to produce first generation therapies in mice capable of repairing all of the primary forms of cell and tissue damage that cause aging, say half a billion to a billion at this point, is much less than the cost of developing a single small molecule drug in the big pharma world, say two billion or so. A startup company in this field that made the transition to look something like a mid-sized pharmaceutical entity, with a market capitalization of billions, could probably finish up prototyping SENS on its own over a decade. It wouldn't be on its own, of course. If nothing else, the current clinical development of senescent cell clearance therapies, coupled with lifespan studies in mice, is going to wake up the world on the topic of rejuvenation. That is another good reason to support Oisin Biotechnologies.

At this point let me take a brief diversion into the evils of the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). How is it that I knew about and had the chance to invest in Oisin Biotechnology and you didn't? Simply because I'm close enough to being an insider in this community to get an invite. The rules put in place on early stage investment essentially act to forbid what is called general solicitation: an early stage startup company can't simply advertise for investors. The founders can't reach out to the community at large. Raising a round cannot be public. The only only people normally allowed to invest in startups are those in the upper 5-10% of income or net worth, and the exceptions to that rule needed for seed and friends and family rounds, consisting of people of modest means like myself, to exist at all again require refraining from general solicitation. This is a great example of regulatory capture at work. The rules, ostensibly to protect people from themselves, as heaven forbid anyone actually be trusted to make their own assessments of risk in this world, are absolutely and definitely shaped over the years for far less altruistic reasons. The goal is to restrict the opportunity to invest in high-risk, high-reward early stage companies to established networks of professionals, to build barriers and keep out anyone not on the inside.

This is changing, however. The advent of Kickstarter and its competitors has meant that suddenly a whole range of companies could bypass the whole idea of early stage investment in favor of mass preordering as a source of early funding. That works really well for manufacturing and creative efforts with a fairly short time frame. It is obviously much less useful for biotechnology and medical development. The SEC, for reasons that may have to do with the basic bureaucratic urge to control everything, or the interest of various parties in building new opportunities for regulatory capture, has altered their rules on early stage funding to permit general solicitation in a crowdfunding like manner. Though of course, this being the SEC, it is legalistic, top-heavy, and people are still quite restricted in what they can invest. However, the basic point is that the investment process can be open and public, and in such a case anyone can invest. The new rules go into effect in the middle of 2016, and it remains to be seen how much of a mess or an opportunity it will be.

Mess or not, there is the potential to do something with this in our community. We are, modesty aside, pretty good at putting together and supporting modestly sized fundraisers for SENS research. If we can raise a quarter of a million in charitable donations for research, as happened last year, then I don't see it as beyond the pale that we could raise that much to crowdfund the founding of a future rejuvenation biotechnology company. Perhaps a glucosepane clearance venture, when that research gets to the point of a drug candidate, for example. Will this or something similar come to pass? Perhaps. It is at least possible, and as I pointed out above the funds still go to carrying out research. It is all a question of where that research is in the line of development from first spark through to clinical prototype.

So to finish up, what does this all mean for SENS charitable fundraising this year? Well, 2016 certainly promises to be as active as 2015 based on what I know is coming up already. The Major Mouse Testing Program will be running a crowdfunding effort in the months ahead, and I think at least one other SENS-relevant group may do the same. When it comes to this year's main SENS fundraising in the last quarter of the year, however, I can't lead in the same way as I've done in past years by putting money on the table and telling the world to match it - what might have been those funds went to Oisin Biotechnology and senescent cell research this year, an opportunity I could scarce turn down. Nonetheless, I believe we have plenty of time left in which to organize something interesting and useful, and I will still be the cheerleader to match the SENS Research Foundation's leadership when it comes to running the fundraiser. But let me put it to this audience: here is a bit of a gap, and all assistance in filling it will be greatly appreciated.

Comments

Congratulations on the investment! It is important to be a good example unto others. I do not have so much money to spare, but I will donate all I can to the cause when I am in a better financial situation.

Posted by: Plato at February 17th, 2016 1:06 AM

Oh, I had missed the announcement of your investement as I read your previous post. Well, that's great news! And indeed called for a trade-off regarding the fundraiser. But it seems like it was for the better.

Posted by: Nico at February 17th, 2016 1:53 AM

So... if this year's FA! fundraiser is gonna be used to seed-fund a company, can I suggest that it be used for DRACO? Strictly, it isn't rejuvenation, but many old people are killed by infectious diseases. I think DRACO is the second-best after therapies for rejuvenating the immune system. Last year's DRACO crowdfunding only collected $60k, but I think it could go better if supporters get some kind of share in the company.

Posted by: Antonio at February 17th, 2016 6:35 AM

@Antonio: This year's fundraiser won't be used to seed fund a company. I raise the possibility for the future, not this year.

DRACO is a good possibility for a company if the right people got involved, I think, but might still be in the stage of needing too much time and funding to make the leap easy. A million dollars and two years is a big gap for seed funding to bridge. A fifth of that is doable.

Posted by: Reason at February 17th, 2016 9:21 AM

Ah, ok. Thanks for the info.

Posted by: Antonio at February 17th, 2016 9:58 AM

I know Yale will need additional funding in 6-12 months for Glucosepane breakers, apparently they are making progress with that too. I think a concerted push on AGE and some exposure for their work would be good. MMTP is in talks with them and we will of course promote their work but perhaps we could focus on AGE and bring that technology forward?

Removing AGE has so many ramifications not to mention it would be of interest to the diabetic community as well as longevity field.

Posted by: Steve H at February 18th, 2016 2:15 AM

@Reason,

I hate to rain on your parade but someone made another comment on the liposomal transfer technology. I like to occasionally post news on SENS topics over at http://www.kurzweilai.net and I posted the Gary Hudson interview on Oisin. Noam23 claims to be a molecular biologist and states that it is unlikely that it has been demonstrated in vivo. If it had, it would be a sure bet for the Nobel prize. Here is the link:
http://www.kurzweilai.net/forums/topic/interview-with-senescent-cell-clearance-startup-oisin-biotech-ceo

Posted by: Morpheus at February 18th, 2016 3:52 PM

He sounds like a drag :) I love how so called internet experts trot out their assumptions like they are gospel. Oisin worked with sens and compared so some troll on kurzweil I know who I believe.

Posted by: Steve h at February 18th, 2016 4:18 PM

@Morpheus: It has been demonstrated in vivo. Fortunately the opinions of others don't bound the possible.

I'd argue this isn't particularly prize-worthy from a science point of view. All of the individual components have been demonstrated piecemeal in the past: importing genetic sequences that act as simple programs into cells, gene therapy, suicide genes. This is simply one way of arranging all of these things.

Posted by: Reason at February 18th, 2016 6:17 PM

Oisin Biotechnologies finally have a (bare bones) website up:

http://oisinbio.com/

Posted by: Jim at February 21st, 2016 4:33 AM

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