Co-founder and director of YouthBio Therapeutics
DISCLOSURE: Longevity.Technology (a brand of First Longevity Limited) has been contracted by the company mentioned in this article to support its current funding round. Qualifying investors can find out more via the Longevity.Technology investment portal.
At YouthBio Therapeutics, we’re on a mission to develop tissue-specific partial reprogramming gene therapies that can rejuvenate tissues, improve organ function, and prevent age-related diseases. Our goal is to restore a more youthful gene expression profile in the targeted cells, which can produce a positive therapeutic effect in the corresponding organ. Our long-term vision is to develop a combination therapy that can periodically rejuvenate multiple key organs, leading to systemic rejuvenation in healthy people or companion animals.
To achieve this goal, we’re developing organ-specific therapies that are first being tested in major age-related diseases associated with those organs. For instance, we’re working on a brain-specific therapy to address Alzheimer’s disease, and a skin-specific therapy for wound healing.
In addition to developing these therapies, we’re also searching for novel rejuvenating factors that can increase the safety of our treatments and decouple the rejuvenating aspects of reprogramming from its cell identity changing aspects. Finally, we’re developing a tissue-specific gene delivery and induction platform for our combinatorial therapies.
We are currently raising $3.5 million to fund preclinical studies of our tissue-specific therapies in the CNS, rare disease, and dermatology areas, as well as expand our search for novel rejuvenating factors and develop our tissue-specific platform.
Major milestones hit & next steps
We have made significant progress in several key areas. First, we have identified a number of novel rejuvenating factors that have the potential to decouple rejuvenation from dedifferentiation, which we are currently testing in vitro.
In addition, we have advanced quite far in animal studies of our tissue-specific therapies. We have completed a proof of concept and safety study of our brain-specific therapy in mice, which showed that it is safe and effective at producing OSKM expression in the brain. We have also initiated three more mouse studies in various disease models, including a model of Alzheimer’s disease. These studies are designed to assess the safety and efficacy of our tissue-specific therapies in disease contexts, with the goal of eventually creating effective therapies for those diseases.
Moving forward, our next steps include continuing our animal studies, expanding our novel factors discovery program, and advancing our tissue-specific delivery and gene induction platform for our combinatorial therapies. We also plan to initiate additional animal studies in new therapeutic areas.
Why did you start a longevity company?
I started my first longevity company in 2017, which incidentally was the first ever partial reprogramming company, because of my background as a drug developer and a longevity activist. I had long believed that aging is an epigenetically driven process, but I didn’t see a way to rejuvenate the epigenetics of old cells in a formed organism until I read the Ocampo et al. 2016 paper on partial reprogramming. This was a eureka moment for me because partial reprogramming is precisely the mechanism that can restore younger gene expression profiles.
Since then, I have been a strong proponent of partial reprogramming, working to develop effective therapies as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, in 2017, investors were too skeptical about partial reprogramming, so my first company could not get off the ground. However, by 2020, investor attitudes towards partial reprogramming had changed, and it was the right time to start YouthBio.
Describe your ideal investor
Our ideal investor is someone who shares our mission and our sense of urgency that we need to move as fast as possible to develop therapies that can radically extend lifespan.
If you could change one thing about the longevity industry, what would it be and why?
That’s a tough one. As many others in the longevity field, I am saddened that we are just a 1/100 of the fields of cancer or Alzheimer’s research. If I had a magic wand, that is something that I would change – increase the field by 100x or even 1000x. However, I think the sad state of things is just a reflection of the general public’s perception of aging research, and, in the absence of a magic wand, this is what we collectively need to work on – changing people’s view of how critical aging research is, and that working on therapies that can slow down or reverse aging is just as noble and desirable as working on cancer therapies.
What is your personal longevity regime?:
My biohacking days are long behind me, so these days I don’t really do much: just mild exercise, sauna once a week, decent sleep hygiene, not-too-horrible eating habits, don’t drink too often and so on.
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