Venture capitalists are characterized as exhibiting sheep-like behavior, though it would probably be more correct to say that the limited partners who invest in venture funds have this issue, and the venture capitalists must go along with it if they want to build a fund at all. Investment organizations are risk-averse in interesting ways, and near always prefer to put funds into a near clone of an existing effort that has shown traction rather than something novel. With this in mind, I'll note that a sizable fraction of companies in the longevity industry are drug discovery platform developers whose founders happen to favor mechanisms of aging as a target. The companies typically launch with only a declared agenda and the start of a platform intended to make small molecule drug discovery more efficient in some way; usually this involves machine learning.
To what degree are these companies multiplying because it is comparatively easy to raise funds with this pitch, versus this being a period of time in which advances in machine learning are genuinely offering many ways in which to meaningfully improve small molecule drug discovery? I'm not familiar enough with that part of the field to comment. Either way, work on aging seems like it might be something of an afterthought in the underlying mechanisms that have produced a prevalence of these initiatives. The iconic example of a computational drug discovery platform company in the longevity industry is Insilico Medicine, now largely pivoted away from aging in favor of selling capabilities in drug discovery to industry giants. On the other hand, BioAge appears to be staying the course to put some of their drugs into clinical trials. Gero could yet go either way. And so forth.
An any case, that said, Arda Therapeutics is another new drug discovery platform company that launched with big name seed stage investors, and a good philosophy of development related to selective destruction of problem cells in the aging body. There are many populations of cells that are small in number but cause outsized issues, particularly in the immune system, such as age-associated B cells, chronically activated microglia, and so forth. There are likely more such cell types yet to be discovered. On the whole, not much has been done to advance the practical removal of these cells to the clinic, outside the cancer and senolytics research and development communities. This is an area in which more initiatives are needed.
Today, I'm excited to introduce Arda Therapeutics. Arda is taking aim at chronic diseases and aging by eliminating the pathological cells that drive these conditions. Our approach starts by using single-cell data to identify pathological cells and specific markers to target them. We then design therapies to eliminate these - and only these - cells. We are initially focused on treating chronic diseases, with the long-term goal of extending healthy lifespan.
The idea of eliminating - or "targeting" - bad cells is not new; most cancer treatments are based on this strategy. Yet when it comes to other diseases, rather than removing harmful cells, most therapeutics modulate the activity of individual proteins with the goal of modifying cell behavior. However, cell behavior is a consequence of complex regulatory networks: multiple pathways contribute, often with redundancy, making cell behavior difficult to change via single targets. We believe that in many cases the better strategy is to eliminate the entire pathological network - that is, the entire cell.
Our team combines expertise in pathological cell clearance with a rare blend of computational and drug development know-how. Still, there is no guarantee of success. Ten years from now, I believe there will be dozens of cell targeting therapeutics for chronic diseases. I hope many of them are Arda's. But if we fail at making successful drugs, we will at least succeed in mapping part of this new territory, making it a bit easier for others to take the next step. Ultimately, we are running the same relay race, and the trophy is more quality time for all of us.