Liz Parrish and BioViva, a Chapter in the Telomerase Gene Therapy Book

As a part of efforts to push forward the treatment of aging as a medical condition, Liz Parrish underwent telomerase and follistatin gene therapies a few years ago. She formed a company, BioViva Sciences, to follow through. Self-experimentation is the most ethical of all possible ways proceed from animal studies to human studies, and is unfairly slandered in this day and age. There is a long history of notable researchers first testing their work on themselves. Self-experimentation must be followed through by success in business, fundraising, research and development, however - the areas in which all too many initiatives fail. The success rate of young companies is low in every field of endeavor.

This lengthy article tells the tale of a bold step and a follow through that faltered for all of the usual prosaic reasons. Could it all have been done better? Of course. It is easy to say that in hindsight and from the outside for any company, including the successful ones. Could BioViva have succeeded from the given starting point with difference choices and different allies along the way? Probably. Again something that can be said for near any venture. Perhaps exactly the same set of steps will be accomplished a few years from now and that effort will spark and succeed - sometimes it is just a matter of timing and what the various development and venture communities are prepared to accept. What we might choose to say on this matter, it is unequivocally the case that people are suffering and dying in vast numbers due to this medical condition called aging, and too little is being done about it. We need a thousand, ten thousand such bold steps and attempts to follow through.

The room at the clinic in Bogota was clean and spare. There was a bed and, on her right, an IV drip. Over a period that lasted well into the night, there would be more than 100 injections. The pace was agonizingly slow. "So you're saying this will still get to my organs, right?" she asked the doctor as he inserted a needle below her kneecap. It would, he assured her. It was after midnight when she got the last injection.

It was September 16, 2015, and a strange kind of medical history had been made: in an untested procedure that would have violated federal regulations in the U.S., Elizabeth Parrish, a healthy 44-year-old the founder of a small biotech startup called BioViva, had received what she believed was a more potent dose of gene therapy than any other person ever had. She did it to fight what she called the "disease" of aging. She was, in her own words, Patient Zero in the quest for radically increased longevity.

Testing BioViva's products first on herself, Parrish said, had been the only ethical choice. She hadn't turned back into a 25-year-old. Nor, on the bright side, did she appear to have cancer. Her biomarkers - triglycerides, C-reactive protein, muscle mass - were promising but ultimately inconclusive, since they were the results of just one person, and not published in a peer-reviewed study. The results of Parrish's telomere tests showed average length in white blood cells had increased by 9 percent. A press release said that this was equivalent to reversing 20 years of aging. But there was no published study to go along with it, and the news was easy to dismiss.

For two years, Parrish had been claiming that BioViva would soon open overseas clinics. Not long before RAADfest 2016, she and Bill Andrews of Sierra Sciences had made a coordinated announcement: they were partnering in a new venture called BioViva Fiji. They showed off an architectural rendering of a generically modern gene-therapy clinic. When the Fijian press caught wind of BioViva Fiji, authorities told journalists that it didn't exist, not even on paper. And at RAADfest 2017, neither Parrish nor Andrews seemed too keen to talk about it anymore.

It was the prelude to a breakup, a friendly (and perhaps temporary) parting of ways. In December 2017, a new company called Libella Gene Therapeutics announced that it had secured an exclusive license from Bill Andrews for his AAV Reverse (hTERT) transcriptase enzyme technology. Libella was now recruiting patients for a first-ever study in Cartagena, Colombia. There was no mention of BioViva, no mention of Parrish, no mention of her self-experiment.

Parrish and I met for lunch so she could tell me about BioViva's new direction. "So, BioViva is now a bioinformatics company!" she announced. It was pivoting. It wasn't trying to do clinical trials for the time being. Even offshore, away from the FDA, they cost millions of dollars, and raising that kind of money to do traditional trials would amount to the kind of slow-moving medicine she was trying to overcome. BioViva would be a data platform for other companies, collecting and analyzing the information they gathered from their trials.



Telomeres are not the whole story. Her therapy, of successful would have a wrek anti inflammatory effect and allow for somehow refreshed stem cells. Definitely useful but not at her age. At 44 you still have lots of good stem cells. Portably even at 70- something you would have enough of the senecent associated inflammation weren't underbid l impeding the repair. In sorry, even if everything worked perfectly, of which I am skeptical, the results would be inconclusive.

Posted by: Cuberat at July 23rd, 2018 7:55 AM

Riveting. I can't help but feel these events are part of a life or death struggle for me.

Posted by: Tom Schaefer at July 23rd, 2018 8:17 AM

At this stage I am convinced that telomere shortening is not a cause of aging. It is likely a biomarker of aging. Apparently her gene therapies actually did work in doing what they were supposed to in terms of molecular biology. It's just unlikely to have an anti-aging effect. What makes Liz parrish's work significant is that it represents a capability of DIY medicine. I really think the DIY approach is the best way to go for radical life extension given all of the cultural and institutional inertia that has to be overcome. The slandering of DIY medicine is completely incomprehensible to me. How is DIY medicine any worse than, say, wingsuit flying off of mountains? In both cases, the risk is entirely and exclusively borne by the willing participants themselves with no deleterious effects on anyone else.

Posted by: Abelard Lindsey at July 23rd, 2018 9:53 AM

Hi Abelard Lindsey,
It indeed seems that telomeres shortening is a lesser contributor to aging damage. Or at least, it word in line to add another injury, if we survive senecent cells associated inflammation. There might be tissues where longer telomeres would make a difference but the current target en vogue are senecent cells.

>The slandering of DIY medicine is completely incomprehensible to me

Well, it sets a bad example and is a fertilité Ground for scam. There will be a lot of misuses and abuse which tarnish the medical image...Not that we don't have rejuvenation quackery like energy healing, crystals, supplements and such. Sometimes they are mixed with fasting, mediation, yoga, exercise, placebo , and hormesis. Which works against all odds....

Also , once you have created a DUY medicine, and you believe it works, the temptation to she is so strong that it is done... Potentially with disastrous results...

The cynical party of me would like to see more and extreme DUY experimentation, so I could learn from other peoples mistakes and delusions.

But I would not push anybody. And if the self-exciting is done, at least it has to be done scientifically and the results have to be shared.

Liz, ironically, is too young to show much improvement from lengthened telomeres but she was brave (and reckless) enough
To do it. And at the time of planning the experiment it looked she had a decent chance of success. Just before I have learned about senolitics, I would guess that her approach is one of the best. A non-peer reviewd experiment, though, is very questionable. Did her therapy do anything at all? Did the vector succeed to deliver the payload, did it work on the cells, did the cells proliferate? We don't know. So to go to mainstream this study will have to be replicated in peer review settings...

Posted by: Cuberat at July 23rd, 2018 12:44 PM

I can't help but think that someone innovative like Liz Parrish will be the one to beat all the odds and be the first to reach 150. Probably she has a 20 year jump already on most everyone else on account of her telomere lengthening treatment. Actually, 25 years over males, as females live 5 years longer than the males. That will make it difficult for a male to be the first one to reach 150. But Liz, if she applies senolytics, keeps progeria genetics in check, and takes care of her mitochondria and immune system, could be on the doorstep of a 150 year lifespan, with say one more telomere lengthening in the future.

Posted by: Brian Marcks at July 23rd, 2018 4:44 PM

@Brian Marcks,
She's forty something. Reaching 150 will take more than 100 years. By then there's a good chance the aging will be solved, if we are still meat bags and not matrix cyborgs...

What is important are the next 30-40 years. By then if rejuvenation is achievable and practical, then it will be solved.

So regardless wether she did minor harm or minor improvement, she has a good chance to be alive and profiting from the newly discovered therapies.

From this perspective her self experimenting brings those times closer by having a promising thelomere extending therapy, albeit not peer reviewed...

Posted by: Cuberat at July 23rd, 2018 6:23 PM

I think that the experiment Dr Parish conducted is amazing! The result - a 9% increase in telomere length is very interesting. Whether this has any clinical significance remains to be seen. Human life goes in cycles and the reproductive cycle is probably a central one. Logically, rejuvenation should reset one (current) cycle and return the person to the preceding cycle or it may merely prolong the current cycle. Whatever it is, such experimention is a remarkable step in fighting degenerative aging.

Posted by: Andrius Baskys MD, PhD at July 29th, 2018 9:49 AM

1. Bioviva in Colombia gives Stem cell injections
2. No visible change.
3. Teleomere tests say 9% increase in length. No data.
4. Fiji Clinic. No show
5. Bioviva changes from rejuvenative to BioInformatics company
6. Libella stem cells opens in Colombia

Good extrapolation of the original article

Posted by: Erik at August 11th, 2018 10:25 AM

It's too bad people have to go overseas to get the treatments they want. Someone suffering from a fatal illness ought to be able to choose to try experimental therapies; the right-to-try law is helpful but doesn't provide access to everything. Some would see trying an experimental therapy as a gamble - perhaps they would get lucky, but if not they die anyway. Not having had much luck in life, I would see it more like an opportunity to volunteer for the infantry on D-day. For some diseases the animal models just don't work and what's needed are human guinea pigs - willing of course, after being duly apprised of the possible risks. Willingly going out on the Omaha Beach of a medical research battle against a fatal illness makes more sense to me than what some healthy people choose to do, like wingsuit flying or free climbing. How is it they are allowed to do such risky, harebrained things? Because it's their life and their decision, that's why.

Posted by: CD at October 16th, 2018 4:36 PM
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