A Few More Details on Juvenescence

Jim Mellon is making a high profile investment in the development of therapeutics to treat aging, and this article offers a few more details on the company founded to carry this forward, Juvenescence. It is good to see new funding and vigor joining the field, but by the sound of it most of the proposed work is not actually all that interesting. It will be more of the standard drug development to try to slightly slow the aging process: consider the present panoply of work on calorie restriction mimetics, enhancement of autophagy, exercise mimetics, and so forth. Billions have been spent in this area in the past two decades with essentially nothing of practical use to show for it, because this approach to treating aging cannot possibly either produce significant rejuvenation or add decades to life spans. It fails to directly address the root causes of aging, does nothing more than tweak the operation of metabolism to slightly slow the consequences, and after twenty years of this work, the results still cannot even perform near as well as either actual calorie restriction or exercise.

Aside from the promise of investment in senolytic development, this initiative appears to be largely the Longevity Dividend approach so far; pour vast investment into perhaps adding a couple of years of life by 2030 or 2040. It is underwhelming, especially in comparison to the animal studies arising out of even just a few years of serious work on the alternative, which is to repair the forms of damage that cause aging. If Juvenescence focuses on senolytic drugs to clear senescent cells, it will be useful - the more the merrier in that part of the field. This is one of the few places where SENS rejuvenation research overlaps significantly with long-standing drug discovery practices, and not coincidentally it is also where results on aging and age-related disease in animal studies these past few years are both reliable and exciting in their magnitude - more has been achieved here in a few years than in the past two decades of work on calorie restriction, and at far less cost. Beyond these overlaps with SENS, all of the other usual suspects in the drug discovery agenda for slowing aging will, I predict, continue to produce little to no meaningful outcome no matter how much is invested in their development.

When British billionaire Jim Mellon wants to map out an investment strategy, he likes to write a book first. Out of that process came his most recent work - Juvenescence: Investing in the Age of Longevity. Now he and some close associates with some of the best connections in biotech are using the book as inspiration to launch a new company - also named Juvenescence - with plans to make a big splash in anti-aging research. "We are at an inflection point for the treatment of aging," says Greg Bailey, who likes to highlight some of the new cellular pathways that are pointing to new therapies that can counter the effects of aging. "I think this is going to be the biggest deal I've ever done. It will need repetitive financing. Five to $600 million was raised for Medivation. As we hit inflection points, we will need to raise a dramatic amount of money."

Bailey, the CEO of Juvenescence, was one of the early backers of Medivation, where he was a board director for 7 years - before Pfizer stepped in to buy the biotech for $14 billion. The primary game plan at Juvenescence is to come up with various operations engaged in developing new anti-aging drugs. Juvenescence AI is a joint venture they've just set up with Alex Zhavoronkov, who runs Insilico Medicine. Mellon met Zhavoronkov while he was researching his book, and believes that the tech the scientist developed can illuminate new programs with a better chance of success. "They are going to take up to 5 molecules from us every year for development," says Zhavoronkov, an enthusiastic advocate of AI in drug research who's also been working on some alliances with big pharma players. The group has invested about $7 million in the technology so far getting the joint venture set up. More will follow.

Aside from the cellular pathways that have attracted their attention, the biotech will look to effect change in the mitochondria, the cell's powerhouse, as well as clean up senescent cells that accumulate as the body grows older. And Bailey expects he'll be working some Biohaven-like deals to develop an advanced pipeline at a rapid pace. The principals chipped in the seed millions for the company and invested in the joint venture with Zhavoronkov. Bailey says you can expect to see $20 million to $50 million more from a friends-and-family raise before the end of the year. And it's expected to grow from there.

Link: https://endpts.com/british-billionaire-jim-mellon-and-high-profile-partners-roll-the-dice-on-an-anti-aging-upstart/


That's the problem of billionaries in this field. Just none of them have the expertise needed to choose well. We need an Elon Musk, someone that knew how to change the field before he became rich.

Posted by: Antonio at July 31st, 2017 7:14 AM

I'm sure these companies will be open to funding any drug development which can show benefits to health.

Posted by: Anonymoose at July 31st, 2017 7:49 AM

Jim Mellon said he had a dinner with Aubrey: https://youtu.be/JlSsLS3WfHw?t=29m29s

Let's see if Mr. Mellon has learned key lessons from this meeting, or if it turns out to be another Calico...

Posted by: Elg at July 31st, 2017 7:55 AM

I think Jim is taking a more broad lead in this area.


Jim is into AGEX in a big way, and Aubrey is working with AGEX. This is no coincidence.

From what I can tell, Jim is hitting every note not just calorie restriction drugs. AGEX is working on Yamanaka factors, telomere technology and stem cells.

I would expect a lot more to come, this whole thing is just getting started.

Posted by: Mark Borbely at July 31st, 2017 11:22 AM

Reason, I am sympathetic to your cause. I know Aubrey, Sinclair, Guarente, Kennedy. I just
think that something like rapamycin for instance, which delays age, actually reverses the age of the immune system, and likely induces changes in the epigenome. And take the Conboys, whom I've
have interviewed - their stem cell work may actually make stem cells act young again. Irina
posited to me on camera that if the new tissues made by the new cells from the reinvigorated stem cells also produce younger organs, will the resultant animal be younger. Will the cells have a younger epigenome?
I think the body has the inmate ability to make itself you get again given the right cues.
It may not be necessary to take away all the damage, the body may be able to do it.
Bottom line: I think much of the research you don't think much of will in fact increase lifespan more than a couple of years. I think intermittent rapamycin/metformin treatment now is good for 10-20 years.

Posted by: Robert Kane Pappas at July 31st, 2017 12:04 PM

@Mark Borbely: Senolytics it is then; that pleases me if they follow though.

Posted by: Reason at July 31st, 2017 12:45 PM

@Reason: Great to hear!

You have done an outstanding job over the years of chronicling the science, and now we are seeing real progress in moving things forward. This is a whole new phase. We should also be keeping an eye on money and relationships. Jim Mellon LOVES to get in on the ground floor of things and he's a fan of private investing. I'll do my best to keep tabs on where the money is moving and the relationships being established. More importantly, Jim is 61 years old. He would not be interested in something that will never come or be of a benefit to him within his lifespan. He's in to win.

Truth...there have been a lot of big moves lately. The 20-50 million friends and family round will be a help, but there will be more. I have a strong feeling that Jim will be instrumental in moving Project 21 forward.

Posted by: Mark Borbely at July 31st, 2017 12:57 PM

Hopefully Jim Mellon decides to make a donation to project 21.

Posted by: Jim at July 31st, 2017 3:19 PM

Wait and see. If you want big pharma buy in, you need to make conservative announcements. And Jim supported SENS in a big way as far as I know, so you should ask Aubrey for comment before making any judgments. As far as I can see, only advanced AI can help us develop strategies to reverse aging in a big way.

Posted by: Alex Zhavoronkov at July 31st, 2017 3:53 PM

Yep there are definately lots of assumptions being made here thanks for wading in Alex.

Posted by: Steve Hill at July 31st, 2017 4:52 PM

I watched a decent chunk of his speech. He just wrote a book on Aging (hasn't yet come out), but it's clear that from listening to him talk, he is pretty new to the area and is digesting simply what he hears from others. This makes me think that he might not have any real affinity for Aubrey's approach. He'll just catalog it away without being able to think about it critically and it will just be washed over/replaced by info from the next expert he talks to.

He's had good success in raising funds (to put it lightly), so I think many people listen to what he has to say as though he is an expert in these areas, which I think is far from true. Simply put, he sounds like a salesman. Maybe that's not a terrible thing. Drumming up interest in anti-aging could be great. But it could also be a disaster. If they throw hundreds of millions into low-probability solutions, you're just going to get bitter/turned off investors and increase eye-rolls when people discuss the topic. If instead, we start to see aging like people think of cancer: as a problem for which there has to be a solution somewhere no matter how many times we've failed in the past, then it could be a great thing. Time will tell, I guess.

Posted by: Create the Future at July 31st, 2017 5:33 PM

@Create the Future - We have a review copy of the book here and it has an entire section about SENS and they worked closely with Aubrey to make sure it was correct.That is not the sign of someone not interested in SENS.

You should just wait and see instead of guessing about stuff and making assumptions.

Posted by: Steve Hill at July 31st, 2017 5:45 PM

Jim Mellons blog today:

"On the subject of Juvenescence, I am off to San Francisco with my old best friend Anthony Baillieu to meet my new best friend Aubrey de Grey (Google him!) and my dear colleague Greg Bailey. We are all spending the day at the Buck Institute of Aging - not to be rejuvenated ourselves, but to understand more of the amazing science that is coming out of this institution.

One of the key senolytic drugs in development, being trialled by Unity Lifesciences, first emerged at the Buck. In a nutshell, senolytics are among the first of several compounds that will add significantly to human lifespan in the next ten or twenty years. While more fully described in the new book, these are drugs that clear so-called senescent cells from tissues. Senescent cells become more prevalent as we age, and are cells that are neither dead nor healthy, but which exist in a limbo like state. They contribute significantly to inflammatory disease and their removal, at least in part, is demonstrably life extending in animal models.

We are also visiting another company involved in senolytics, and will be looking to make an investment in it for our venture, Juvenescence Limited, which is jointly owned by Greg, Dec Doogan (formerly head of drug development at Pfizer, the world's biggest drug company) and myself. We have collectively recently invested a largish sum in a venture called Insilico Medicine, which uses deep neuronal networks (aka AI) to enhance medical discoveries, and we have capitalised a JV with Insilico called Juvenescence AI which will look to discover five new chemical entities a year for several years, using AI. These are exciting times in the field of longevity, and believe me, staying healthy today will allow you to cross a bridge to ultra-long life in the not too distant future."


Posted by: Steve Hill at July 31st, 2017 5:47 PM

It seems that he is investing in all the approaches at the same time, so probably his investment in SENS will not be that great. But anyway any publicity is welcome!

Posted by: Antonio at July 31st, 2017 5:59 PM

@Steve Hill there's nothing wrong with assumptions especially when assumptions are laid out. Also, my comment on him likely not having an affinity for Aubrey's approach doesn't say anything regarding his treatment of it. He could understand Aubrey's approach 100% and still make the wrong decision based on the need to turn out near term value (which will favor approaches that fit within current phrama constructs of small molecules targeting defined diseases.) I stand by my statement, including my final "Time will tell."

Posted by: Create the Future at July 31st, 2017 6:06 PM

Time will tell yes and whatever happens there are still positives in this.

Posted by: Steve Hill at July 31st, 2017 6:12 PM

Ok so from Jim Mellon's blog comment it is near 100% certain that they are investing in Oisin, unless there is another senolytic company in the Bay Area other than Unity.

This would be good news as Gary Hudson has said threat he intends to reinvest returns in other SENS technologies.

Posted by: Jim at July 31st, 2017 8:13 PM

Big pharma will also likely be needed further along in the process when there is a candidate drug. The big pharma companies have personnel and experience for achieving regulatory approval in the USA and other countries.

They also have major manufacturing sites set up and staffed. Then they have their sales networks, where they are tied in to the doctors who prescribe. And they have personnel who liaison with various insurance companies for coverage.

For each type of doctor, like ophthalmologists, there is several big pharma who have a portfolio of products in that field to offer. So a drug that reduced the buildup of senolytic cells in the eyes, imo basically a 100% chance that a startup would need to partner with one of the big pharma to realize the potential of the drug.

By nature the big corporations are very risk adverse, but luckily they are also under pressure from their shareholders to deliver growth. And say in a field where there is 4 or 5 big pharma competing, they don't want to be the corporation that missed out on a huge new market.

Posted by: aa3 at July 31st, 2017 9:55 PM

Regarding Jim Mellon possibly investing in SENS environment, is there a way for the average individual to invest in similar SENS field. Someone mentioned one company a while back and I wrote them, but did not receive a reply back, so sorry for asking a similar question.

BTW, totally excited investors are finally getting into this field. First, it shows that there may be substantial dividends to be earned in the forseable future, and 2nd, more publicity, which always helps the cause.

Posted by: Robert at August 1st, 2017 2:06 AM
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.