Dispatches from the front line of longevity

Longevity Leaders World Congress is underway, and Longevity.Technology has all the news from the movers and the shakers.

The fourth annual Longevity Leaders World Conference is underway in London, bringing together the world’s most prominent regenerative medicine and longevity scientists. As well as looking at innovation in regenerative medicine and longevity therapeutics, the conference is overviewing responsible drug development and novel therapies that target age-related diseases, as well as considering how these are commercialised.

Longevity.Technology: And we are there! Much as we love Zoom, it’s wonderful to be able to be at the Congress in person, taking the temperature of the longevity space with so many of key opinion leaders. The congress is buzzing, and it’s a testament to just how hot the lifespan and healthspan extension sector is right now and how fast it is growing. Here’s a little flavour of what we’ve been a part of.

Our first stop was the Keynote Panel: Regenerative, Rejuvenate or Reprogram? Moderated by Cambrian BioPharma CEO James Peyer, this was an in-depth discussion about applying geroscience to regenerative and longevity research. The panel, which featured Thomas Rando (Co-Founder, Fountain Therapeutics), Georgina Ellison-Hughes (Professor of Regenerative Muscle Physiology, King’s College London) and Nir Barzilai (Director, Institute for Aging Research, Albert Einstein College of Medicine) considered how the deeper understanding of aging biology can progress the next ten years of stem cells and longevity therapeutics.

Discussing the most exciting discovery in the last few years, that will also have utility in the next 10 years, Rando said that the most exciting advance is the advent of in vitro models for tissue. “This will change the way we model diseases and screen for diseases and will lead to better translation from in vitro to in vivo,” he said.

Barzilai proposed the hallmarks of aging. “These allowed the industry to start flourishing – if you fix one, you affect the others; it’s the most important thing that happened.”

For Ellison-Hughes, it is innovative, targeting cellular senescence. “This has the potential to change the landscape, but the moonshot is reprogramming, it might not be clinically translatable, I think the future is protecting and preventing – keeping cells healthier for longer (rather than reprogram),” she said.

The panel also considered how this has changed their working practices.

Tom Rando: “It’s changed in a lot of ways; I had the idea of my company in 2005, and I was laughed out of the room, but Calico was a watershed moment. It has shifted in the lab to translatable potential – these immense amounts to discover, it’s been a sea change.”

Nir Barzilai: “When I started, people thought you were going to be sick for a lot longer which made us move towards healthspan. Another thing that happened was that I went to older people for investment, but they thought it was too late – I found that younger people were more interested. There’s a huge change because this is a science – some of the billionaires that invest in this field are very young.”

Georgina Ellison-Hughes: “I see myself as a biologist first rather than a biologist of aging – you have to consider that ultimately everyone will be working with older people.”

A session on the impact of COVID-19 also caught our eye (and ears!). Moderated by Joan Mannick (Co-Founder and CEO, Tornado Therapeutics) and with James Kirkland (Director of the Robert and Arlene Kogod Centre on Aging, Mayo Clinic), Janet Lord ( Institute of Inflammation and Ageing, University of Birmingham) and Kristen Fortney (Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, BioAge Labs) on the panel.

Mannick: “Aging is the biggest risk factor; why is someone that’s 65 more susceptible than a 25 year old? Its just biology – and it’s possible to target that aging biology.”

Kirkland: “The interplay between senescence – it’s not just older adults, it can happen very early (such as in Down’s syndrome), leaving people susceptible to viral, bacterial and fungal infections.”

Forney: “We need to target the immune system, but we no longer need to explain why the immune system is so important.”

Lord: “Long-COVID patients – they’re going to be more at risk as they get older. This isn’t over for them. Healthy life expecting is actually going backwards – is it COVID, or is it social factors? If you live in a deprived area you’re going to have a 10 year difference in your healthspan. We’re only just starting to look at different ethnicities – it’s not all explained by social status.”

Kirkland: “What we’re learning with chronic HIV will translate to long-COVID; this is the good thing with the FDA – it’s like developing (and receiving) antibiotics, it’s been easier to get approvals.”

Catch up with our interviews with longevity leaders James Peyer and Nir Barzilai.

The second day of the fourth annual Longevity Leaders World Congress takes place tomorrow (27 April) in London, UK.

Find out more about the exciting line-up HERE and Longevity.Technology readers can benefit from a 25% discount – simply use the code LT25 when booking.