Longevity investment bulletin: Modulo Bio, EVERMIND, eGenesis and more

The latest longevity updates from our investment news desk.

Modulo Bio emerges from stealth with $8m funding

Biotech startup Modulo Bio emerged from stealth with $8 million in funding, aiming to bring new hope to millions of patients suffering from debilitating neurodegenerative diseases. Modulo is focused on microglia – cells that can either protect and repair damaged or diseased neurons, or contribute to further degeneration.

The company’s Modulo Neuroimmune Platform integrates software, automation, and artificial intelligence, alongside the latest advances in stem cell biology and neuroscience, to pioneer new treatments. Its research starts with patients, leveraging stem cell technology to generate brain cells from patients with different diseases, and culminates in an AI-generated neuroimmune fingerprint of disease. By modeling the neuroimmune system, Modulo says it can identify drug candidates that target microglia cells to treat diseases like ALS, FTD, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

“I first encountered FTD when my best friend’s mother developed the disease, and we watched it steal her dignity, independence, and personality,” said Michael Horowitz, CEO of Modulo. “That experience, and the looming possibility that my friend might also develop the disease, motivates me every day.”

Alongside Horowitz, Modulo’s leadership team includes seasoned technologist Scott Patterson, formerly VP of engineering at Counsyl, and USC professor Justin Ichida, an expert in modeling ALS and FTD using patient-derived cells.

EVERMIND considers IPO

Cognitive health supplements company EVERMIND announced that it is evaluating a potential public offering of its common stock as it prepares to initiate its nationwide distribution plan. The company provides science-supported functional food and beverage products under the EVERMIND brand name.

By leveraging scientific research and innovation, EVERMIND targets cognitive wellness, offering consumers an unparalleled range of products that enhance mental health and empower individuals to unlock their full potential. EVERMIND has successfully completed a $1.3 million equity raise at a $4 million pre-money valuation and is in discussions with potential bankers for its equity market needs. It expects to use a placement in the form of a convertible debt offering in anticipation of a listing of its common stock.

“While we are an early-stage development company by all measures, we believe that the growth potential may make an early public offering the best approach to meet the capital needs of our growth plans,” said Jordan P Balencic, CEO of EVERMIND. “We have had initial conversations with investment bankers and investor relations professionals, all of who have been supportive of this approach. While there is certainly a cost associated with a well-executed public company, the decision may enable us to maintain control over our destiny as we work to strengthen our position as a leader in the field of cognitive wellness.”

Biophysical lands pre-seed investment

Longevity biotech Biophysical Therapeutics landed a $100,000 investment from Reinforced Ventures, a syndicate that invests in startups at pre-seed stage. The company, which was founded by Cambridge University graduate Dr Michael Forrest, counts Harvard professor George Church and Scripps Research Institute professor Bruno Conti as advisors.

Biophysical has a patented drug that dose-dependently reduces metabolic rate. Already proven in mice, the drug will now be tested to see if it can slow human tissue aging. If the company’s tests are successful, Biophysical has its initial sights set on cosmetic applications.

“We are very excited to work with Liam Krut and Euan Guttridge of deep-tech investor Reinforced Ventures,” Forrest told us. “Raising in this depressed investing environment is a testament to the team, traction so far, and the amplitude of the opportunity. With our demonstrated capital efficiency, this sum should go far.”

Celularity paper shows potential to improve ASC-based cell therapy safety

Cell therapy company Celularity (Nasdaq: CELU) published new preclinical data in the journal Cytotherapy. The paper examines methods to reduce the tissue factor expressed by allogeneic stromal cells (ASCs), which has been regarded as a safety concern in clinical applications as it may trigger thrombosis when ASCs are administered intravenously.

Using CRISPR gene editing of ASCs, the study demonstrated that efficient TF gene knockout can be achieved, generating ASCs with significantly reduced TF activity without affecting the critical features and functions of the cells. The authors concluded that the TF gene knockout provides a feasible strategy which may improve the clinical safety features of ASC-based cell therapies.

“We are very encouraged by these results with an edited version of one of our cell therapy candidates,” said Robert J Hariri, MD, PhD, Celularity’s CEO, Chairman and Founder. “These data advance our understanding of the potential for ASCs to safely address human diseases. These data also are guiding our investment decision to progress our novel genetically modified allogeneic placental-derived mesenchymal-like adherent stromal cells (MLASCs), APPL-001, in diseases like Crohn’s disease, facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD), and to explore a range of other clinical indications.”

eGenesis presents new xenotransplantation data

Xenotransplantation company eGenesis presented new data during the American Transplant Congress 2023 in San Diego. The findings advance understanding of several molecular and cellular aspects of xenotransplantation – the transplantation of living organs, tissues, or cells from one species to another – laying critical groundwork for further evaluation in prospective clinical trials.

Highlights included new long-term survival data in preclinical kidney xenotransplantation, as well as new findings on xenotransplantation graft rejection, providing potential methods to predict and improve future clinical outcomes.

“The data we are presenting at ATC 2023 demonstrate eGenesis’ continued leadership in the field of xenotransplantation,” said Mike Curtis, CEO of eGenesis. “Great progress has been made to now achieve successful longer-term nonclinical transplants with engineered porcine donors. Based on our understanding of the mechanisms that contribute to xenograft health, we recently nominated a donor for clinical development that includes genome modifications addressing hyperacute rejection, recipient compatibility and the risk of zoonosis. We are eager to advance towards clinical studies and ultimately, addressing the tremendous patient need for new donor organs.”

Cumulus completes enrollment in Alzheimer’s trial

Digital health company Cumulus Neuroscience announced the completion of patient enrollment for its CNS-101 multi-site study. The study evaluates the feasibility of using repeated sampling of validated digital measures at home in patients with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease over the course of 12 months. The University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford are lead recruitment sites for the study.

With the goal of assessing people in familiar environments, rather than requiring transport to specialist research facilities for testing, CNS-101 uses the Cumulus dry-sensor EEG headset, combined with the Cumulus digital platform, to measure patients’ cognitive performance and their brain waves during daily life. Study results will be compared with standard assessments normally used in AD clinical trials, including cognitive and blood biomarkers. 

“Clinical trials of Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive impairment can be challenging for many reasons. Reliance on specialist, centralized test centers increases participant burden and reduces sensitivity to natural day to day variation in symptoms,” said Dr James Rowe, Professor of Cognitive Neurology at the University of Cambridge and Chief Investigator on CNS-101. “The Cumulus Platform brings the clinical trial to the patient. To measure brain function, repeatedly over time, and in the comfort of a participant’s own home, is a major step forward for a new generation of clinical trials.”

Athersys begins enrollment in final cohort of MultiStem trial

Regenerative medicine company Athersys (NASDAQ: ATHX) announced patient enrollment has begun in the third and final cohort in MATRICS-1, the Phase 2 clinical study evaluating its MultiStem treatment in patients following resuscitation from hemorrhagic trauma. The study is being conducted at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center.

Patients in the third cohort will be dosed with MultiStem cells produced under Athersys’ novel 3D bioreactor-based manufacturing process, a process that was first utilized to produce product for patients in cohort two of MATRICS-1. MultiStem is believed to deliver benefit for treating complications due to trauma through mechanisms including reducing inflammatory damage, protecting at-risk tissue at the site of injury and upregulating reparative aspects of the local and systemic immune system in a more timely way.

“We’re excited to move forward and initiate cohort 3 of this important trial with our partners at UTHealth Houston, Hermann-Texas Medical Center and DoD/MTEC based on a positive DSMB review,” said Dan Camardo, CEO of Athersys. “MultiStem’s unique mechanism of action has the potential to address the often fatal complications that occur following a severe traumatic event. The final cohort will utilize clinical product manufactured using a 3D bioreactor process and all doses are readily available through our contract manufacturer.”

Ikarovec partners with Rentschler Bio

Gene therapy company Ikarovec has partnered with Rentschler Biopharma to support the bioprocess development of AAV material for pre-clinical testing of Ikarovec’s novel gene therapy for the treatment of geographic atrophy. The condition is an advanced form of age-related macular degeneration that can result in the progressive and irreversible destruction of retinal tissue, which can lead to loss of vision over time.

“We are delighted to collaborate with Rentschler Biopharma on our lead program,” said Dr Katie Binley, Chief Scientific Officer of Ikarovec. “As we look to find new and better ways to treat ophthalmic diseases, we want to get it right and ensure that our product candidates can be scaled up appropriately for each development stage and, ultimately, for commercialization. Thus, it is critical to work with a team that has strong AAV experience in our field and that will be a true partner every step of the way.”

Turn Bio founder to present at Japanese anti-aging conference

Cell rejuvenation company Turn Biotechnologies announced that its co-founder Vittorio Sebastiano will be the only speaker from a non-Japanese company at the 23rd Annual Meeting of the Japanese Society of Anti-Aging Medicine. The theme for this year’s meeting is “Anti-Aging for Men and Women of All Ages – From Womb to Tomb.” The organization has been at the forefront of longevity research because Japan’s declining birthrate and aging population make extending the human health span a particularly urgent issue for the nation.

Turn is developing novel mRNA medicines for untreatable, age-related conditions, and Sebastiano will discuss the promise of epigenetic reprogramming to reverse cell aging. He and his team have used Turn Bio’s ERA technology to reprogram several cell types, including skin and immune cells.

“It’s a great honor to be included in the conversations hosted by JAAM, an organization that recognizes the looming issues of age-related disease,” said Anja Krammer, CEO of Turn Bio. “Our success in the lab shows that epigenetic reprogramming offers great promise for overcoming these currently incurable conditions.”

Photograph: seventyfourimages/Envato