An Interview with an Anti-Aging Drug Researcher

You might find this interview interesting. It is illustrative of the views of many in the industry, with the primary focus being on continued exploration of the molecular biochemistry of aging in order to identify drug targets and drug candidates in the traditional way, rather than the SENS rejuvenation approach of taking what is already known and implementing repair methodologies for the existing catalog of fundamental cell and tissue damage that causes aging.

Age is the single most important risk factor for major diseases, normally associated with aging. There's been a tremendous progress in understanding molecular biology of characterization and even controlling aging in the labs. Lifespans of model animals were increased up to an order of magnitude in some species and some of the research is being translated into future therapies. Last year researchers conducted clinical trials of rapalogs, their proprietary analogs of probably one of the best known life-extending compounds, rapamycin, in elderly cohorts, and showed a reverse in age-related decline of immune function. In another major development, the FDA approved a clinical protocol for TAME (Targeting Aging with Metformin) study, the first-ever study design aimed to test a therapy against aging endpoints. This year at BIO International Convention we organized a panel of distinguished experts, including a VC (venture capitalist), a biotech, a pharma, and public health representatives. We discussed the business opportunities created by the aging research, and the financial, regulatory and larger policy and public perception issues around the subject.

I believe that the most important challenges researchers face when developing anti-aging drugs are still of a technological nature. We need to understand the biology of aging better first. To do that, we developed a theoretical model, linking gene expression networks stability and aging. That model allows us to identify novel biomarkers, patterns of aging process, as well as targets for therapeutic interventions. Some areas of the research have already produced translatable products. As the nature of the research in the field changes towards practical applications, so do the funding and development requirements. That's why we discussed possible business models, the solutions of the fund-raising and regulatory problems.

Interestingly, there are only a few companies and thinkers are trying to address aging as the core problem. Most are concerned with understanding and treatments of specific diseases. It is hence possible, that the emergent longevity companies will have to tackle the diseases of age, one by one, following existing regulatory paths. Another possibility would be to classify aging as a disease itself and introduce robust and cost-effective clinical trials design to accelerate and focus the development. Should the technological and regulatory issues be resolved, the panel experts agree, the funding would go (and is already going at increasing pace!) right into the sector growth fuel. The business opportunities for a successful product against aging are very clear. The population of the developed world grows, and the burden of the diseases of age puts increasing pressure on public health system. There is, undoubtedly, enormous money to be saved for the both customers and the society, and, hence, to be earned by the longevity solutions providers.


Comment Submission

Post a comment; thoughtful, considered opinions are valued. New comments can be edited for a few minutes following submission. Comments incorporating ad hominem attacks, advertising, and other forms of inappropriate behavior are likely to be deleted.

Note that there is a comment feed for those who like to keep up with conversations.