A fair number of news and interest sites covering aging research and the development of therapies to treat aging as a medical condition have come and gone over the years. Longevity.Technology is one of the few that seems likely to stick around for a while, now that there is a growing longevity industry to cover, and thus the ability to bring in enough revenue in traditional ways to run a small professional journalism organization. The Longevity.Technology staff recently published a set of short retrospective articles, looking back on industry news from 2021; some are linked below.
November saw leading lights from across the longevity sector come together in London to announce the formation of the Longevity Biotechnology Association (LBA). The non-profit organisation says it aims to represent those behind the development of "new medicines and therapies to prevent and cure, rather than merely manage, the health conditions of late life."
Kicking off in June, the On Deck Longevity Biotech Fellowship is on a mission to increase the number of people working to build longevity biotechnology companies. Nathan Cheng, ODLB's Program Director hopes the Fellowship will address the fact that as more and more capital flows into the antiaging biotechnology sector, the major obstacle to progress has become the lack of founders.
The National Institute on Aging, which is part of the National Institutes of Health, invited applications for longevity clinical trials to slow aging and prevent or treat age-related diseases in February of this year. Previously, the FDA has approved biotech interventions that address individual diseases, rather than tackling aging itself. However, this funding opportunity is available to researchers who want to treat multiple chronic conditions by modulating fundamental aging-related mechanisms. In short, those who want to target aging itself.
The worlds of cryptocurrency, blockchain, and longevity have collided this year in several very interesting ways. VitaDAO's crypto auction raised 400% of expectation, gathering in over $5 million for longevity research, and the Longevity Science Foundation began to use blockchain technology in its funding selection process. 2021 also saw cryptocurrency HEX founder Richard Heart's creation of a new currency, Pulse. Prior to the launch of this new cryptocurrency, Heart made headlines with an airdrop, in which he gave away some Pulse to those who donated to the SENS Research Foundation (SRF) during a specific 'sacrifice' window.
Seeking to cut the Gordianesque knot of red tape, the Longevity Impetus Grants launched this year, with the aim of speeding up research that slows down aging. Seeking to have a broad impact on the longevity field, the grants will support projects that challenge assumptions, develop new tools and methodologies, discover new ways to reverse aging processes, and/or synthesise isolated manifestations of aging into a systemic perspective. With $26 million to give away (including 1500 Ethereum from Vitalik Buterin), grants will be $10k-500k, with decisions made in three weeks.
Recent events have, of course, thrown a spotlight on our immune systems, but several stories this year have focused on our immune systems for other reasons. In May, we reported how scientists are leveraging the power of immune cells to clear the body of senescent cells that contribute to aging and many chronic diseases in the hope that this new understanding may open the door to new ways of treating age-related chronic diseases with immunotherapy. Senotherapeutic therapies are one way to remove senescent cells, but if our body's own natural surveillance system could be stimulated to do the job, it could be a way to tackle senescence without side effects.
In July, the Buck Institute for Research on Aging announced an aging clock for immunosenescence. An inflammatory clock of aging (iAge) - it measures inflammatory load, rather than causing controversy - predicts multi-morbidity, frailty, immune health, cardiovascular aging and is also associated with exceptional longevity in centenarians.
With much of the world focused on the potential of young blood to improve longevity, our interview with UC Berkeley professor Irina Conboy challenged that view. She's well-qualified to do so, having worked in the lab that produced the seminal 2005 paper on heterochronic parabiosis reversing aging in mice. "We think that if you inject an old person with bodily fluids from a young person, nothing good will happen, unless there is a critical blood loss and a need for a transfusion. But if you can neutralise or remove some determinant proteins that are elevated in ways that become counterproductive, then that old person will become younger."
Targeting senescent cells (old cells that don't die off and build up in our bodies as we age) continued to be a hot topic in longevity this year - so much so, we even wrote a dedicated market report on it! But, with several companies now actively developing senolytic therapeutics that target and kill senescent cells, we spoke to Buck Institute professor Judith Campisi, one of the world's leading authorities on senescence, to get her perspective. "The first question we want to know is, are these different cell populations good or bad, or both? We just don't know. We definitely want senolytics that hit the bad guys, and not the good guys - and we don't have that yet. We don't have that at all."
When it comes to the study of aging, the Buck Institute in California is synonymous with some of the most cutting edge research in the field. This year, the Buck also came to our attention on the commercial side of longevity, with three of its top researchers joining forces to start a company called Gerostate Alpha. Our two-part interview covered the formation of the company, and its goal to discover "interventions that attenuate or halt multiple aging indications simultaneously." Gerostate sets itself apart from many other companies in the field by not focusing on a particular pathway, and concentrating instead on compounds that extend lifespan in mice.
A lot of companies we spoke to over the past 12 months were particularly interested in mitochondria's role in longevity. These miniature organs within our cells play a key role in providing the energy needed for growth, repair, and rejuvenation, and their decline as we age is linked to a range of age-related diseases. US biotech Cohbar has been working in this field longer than most, and our interview with the company's CEO shed some light on the progress made to date, including the discovery of key peptides.