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.