The aging scientist says that more people die from old age than from epidemics, and the benefits of reversing aging are too beneficial for governments to ignore.
All eyes are on Emerald Isle this week as a Longevity Summit Dublin It brings together a range of headphones that cover the spectrum of this booming segment. Delegates have heard from some of the leading entrepreneurs, companies, investors, and researchers in the field as they tackle many hot topics affecting longevity. One such speaker is the so-called “father of genomics” – Harvard genetics professor George Church – who closed the conference later today with a keynote address on Gene, cell and organ therapies to reverse aging.
longevity. Technology: In addition to his Church professorship at Harvard University, Church chairs synthetic biology at Wes InstituteHe oversees the development of new tools with applications in regenerative medicine. Much of his focus recently has been on developing gene therapies that target age-related diseases, a passion that has led him to co-found rejuvenation, with the aim of creating “tooth reverse gene therapies”. We caught up with Church before his presentation in Dublin for a short chat about longevity.
Dr. Church’s name is synonymous with genomics, and has been a major contributor to the Human Genome Project and technologies including next-generation fluorescent sequencing and nano-etching, aimed at understanding genetic contributions to human disease. However, he does feel that these initiatives have done much to advance the field of aging forward.
“They have provided aging researchers with useful reference points to go back and verify their work, but major advances in aging have already been achieved through basic research on the major pathways and drivers of aging,” Church says. “However, what we can take away from these projects is their contribution to technology improvements that have reduced the cost of DNA sequencing from three billion dollars in 2004 to just three hundred dollars today.”
Gene therapies for aging benefit everyone
Thanks to technological advances, it has been estimated that mapping the human genome costs 20-25 million dollars In 2006, though, this was using inappropriate single sequencing for phenotype prediction. Go on today and start playing Nebula genomics (a company founded by Church) is now offering a diploid complete genome sequencing for less than $300—a pretty impressive feat by any measure. (Learn the differences between haploid sequence and diploid sequence over here.)
Along with other technical advances, Church believes that this kind of cost-cutting will make gene therapies viable for everyone, not just the wealthy. The public perception of gene therapy has recently been attacked thanks to drugs such as ZentigluIt was described as the “most expensive drug in history” at $2.8 million a dose earlier this year. But Church does not see the same problem as a factor when it comes to future anti-aging treatments.
“These gene therapies are expensive for rare diseases, and their pricing reflects the ratio of R&D costs to patient population,” Church says. But aging and its related diseases affect almost everyone. When you consider how many people will be able to benefit from anti-aging treatment, along with the potential Huge benefits to society That such a treatment would enable it, then, is a win-win for governments, health care providers, and developers alike.”
Lessons from the COVID pandemic
Under current conditions, gene therapies for aging and age-related diseases will likely take 10 years to gain approval, but Church points out how the world should act to accelerate approvals of COVID-19 vaccines in just one year.
“The first five vaccines were formulated as gene therapies, and they showed how quickly and safely they act when there are extenuating conditions,” he says. “Well, I would say a lot of people die and are in poor health as a result of the effects of aging, so perhaps aging should also be considered a mitigating circumstance.”
Additionally, Church notes, the cost of vaccines was between $2 and $20 a dose — a figure that healthcare systems around the world could handle if gene therapy for aging were similarly priced.
So how close are we to seeing an approved gene therapy for aging? Church thinks he’s too close, while admitting he’s biased by the work in progress on Rejuvenate Bio. He co-founded the company in 2019 with former postdoctoral colleague Noah Davidson, with the goal of “eliminating aging and age-related diseases and increasing the healthy period.”
Combined treatments for multiple diseases
Church believes that gene therapies hold more promise for reversing lifespan than small molecules, because they may avoid repeated doses and be more targeted, while hitting all 10 major pathways at once, so perhaps not surprisingly that Rejuvenate Bio therapies could treat many conditions age-related at the same time.
We have already published in conducted on mice, which showed that four age-related diseases (obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart failure, and kidney failure) can be treated simultaneously with a single gene therapy. “And we’ve continued to show that we can do that with five diseases as well.”
But Rejuvenate Bio doesn’t stop at mice. The company also has a critical animal health pipeline, which is already working on developing and commercializing gene therapy for mitral valve disease (MVD) in dogs.
“Our animal health pipeline also gives us a unique advantage in that the results directly determine the direction of our work in our human treatments, and I believe this will allow us to achieve results faster.”
The company’s flagship therapy (RJB-01) targets the FGF21 and sTGFβR2 genes and is hoped to offer cardiovascular, metabolic and kidney benefits. Following the results of the trial in dogs, RJB-01 is expected to move into IND-enablement studies before phase 1 clinical trials — likely next year.
The church is also excited about the latest Slight increase in investment And the growing interest in the field of longevity.
“It’s obviously a good thing — not only does it help move the field forward, but it also proves a lot of great work has been done in academia over the years,” he says. “Not long ago, people were avoiding the field because of the diminutive image it had. Now we are attracting talented young scientists, and that is what we need to keep moving forward.”