Today I'll point out a couple of recent news items that illustrate there is no funding drought for any group that manages to bring a credible approach to addressing one of the causes of aging to the point of human clinical trials. This is the case even when it is generally understood by all involved that the therapies in question are first generation attempts at implementation, subject to all the normal challenges that brings, and in principle not as good as competing forms of technology that are still at an earlier stage in the process of development. The drought lies in the number of groups who can make it to this stage, because there are never enough entrepreneurs, and the issues with fundraising are all further back in the pipeline: it is hard to raise funds for research into most means of rejuvenation, and it is hard to raise funds at the early startup stage, though that second point is rapidly becoming easier with the growth in the number of incubators focused on biotechnology and aging. Look at YC Bio, for example, or Age 1.
(That it takes a ridiculous amount of funding to pass regulatory hurdles on the way to the clinic is an entire and separate topic for discussion. The task of proving that a treatment works and quantifying the risk of using it to a satisfactory level simply doesn't cost more than a small fraction of the amount that the FDA forces it to cost. Everything above that much lower amount is unnecessary waste, the standard corrosion of efficiency produced by the incentives of a large bureaucratic organization, one whose managers are more interested in practice in perpetuating their positions, expanding their powers, and minimizing bad press than in advancing the state of medicine).
The two groups I'll point out today are Unity Biotechnology, working on pharmaceutical means of senescent cell clearance, and Eidos Therapeutics, who are bringing a therapy for transthyretin amyloidosis to the clinic. In the case of Unity Biotechnology, the better technology and earlier stage competitor is represented by Oisin Biotechnologies, who field a programmable cell killing gene therapy that is in principle a considerable improvement over pharmaceuticals. For Eidos Therapeutics, who are putting forward a therapy that would have to be taken continuously to suppress the creation of harmful amyloid, the earlier, better competing approach is typified by the work of Covalent Bioscience, working on a class of therapy that would clear out the amyloid rather than suppressing its creation. Thus treatment would have to be undertaken less often, and would be more helpful for people further along in the process of accumulating amyloid. All this said, there is of course the point that the better therapy at this moment is the one you can take advantage of today, not the one you wish you could take advantage of today.
Unity Biotechnology has pulled in quite the sizable amount of funding in the past year; they start to look more like a finance operation with a sideline in rejuvenation research than a dedicated biotechnology company. That they are now filing for an IPO before announcing any human clinical trial results is, it has to be said, unusually rapid. But if they can raise the funds and put them to good use, good for them - they have declared ambitions to move beyond senolytics to address other mechanisms of aging, which is certainly a good reason to have a sizable pool of funding. Any successful biotechnology company in one of the fields relevant to the SENS view of aging, damage, and rejuvenation could do a great deal to advance all of the others as well, as the cost of early stage progress is small in comparison to the amounts being raised for later clinical development. We'll see how it turns out once the dust has settled.
Unity Biotechnology has filed for an $85 million IPO. Hitting the target would bring the preclinical anti-aging startup's fundraising haul up toward $300 million and set it up to move two assets into the clinic. Unity last tapped private investors last month with a $55 million series C round. But it is already after its next financial hit. This time, Unity wants public investors to buy into its experimental ideas.
The $85 million IPO would secure Unity's financial future into 2020. Over that period, Unity plans to move two drugs into human testing. Lead program UBX0101, an inhibitor of the MDM2-p53 protein interaction, is due to begin testing in osteoarthritic patients in the next couple of months. UBX1967, an inhibitor of certain Bcl-2 apoptosis regulatory proteins, will arrive in the clinic next year. Unity's initial target indications for the drugs - osteoarthritis and an ophthalmologic disease - reflect its strategy for making the daunting task of tackling aging more manageable. The indications enable Unity to start out administering its drugs locally, before expanding into diseases that require systemic treatment if the early trials validate its approach. Systemic administration would open up indications related to the aging of the heart, kidney, and liver.
Whatever the route of administration, Unity will seek to slow or reverse aging by targeting cellular senescence. This process sees cells halt division, leading to the accumulation of senescent cells and secretion of inflammatory factors, proteases, and other proteins. Unity thinks the proteins disturb tissues and trigger senescence in other cells, leading to the emergence of aged or diseased tissues. A lot of questions remain unanswered, though. All biotechs face uncertainties going into the clinic for the first time, but few pocket more than $200 million and then swing for $85 million IPOs before generating human data. With the delivery of that data still on the horizon, the IPO is a test of investors' willingness to put their faith in a management team and founding investor that have delivered in the past - and the appeal of a big idea.
Eidos Therapeutics, Inc., a clinical stage biopharmaceutical company developing a novel oral therapy to treat transthyretin (TTR) amyloidosis (ATTR), today announced a $64.0 million Series B financing. Proceeds from the financing will be used to advance Eidos' small molecule product candidate, AG10, into Phase 2 clinical trials and to continue preparations for Phase 3 clinical trials. AG10 targets ATTR at its source by potently binding and stabilizing TTR tetramers, the destabilization of which underlies the development of ATTR. The Series B financing brings the total capital raised by Eidos to approximately $91.0 million.
"Our clinical data demonstrate that AG10 has a safe, well-tolerated profile and is able to stabilize 100% of plasma TTR at peak concentrations and provide average levels of stabilization greater than 95% at steady-state. Given that increasing levels of stabilization have yielded progressively better clinical results in past trials, our near-complete levels of stabilization suggest that AG10 could be a best-in-class solution. We are targeting ATTR at its source by stabilizing TTR, an approach that is validated by genetics and clinical data."