Khosla Ventures leads seed round for longevity biotech startup targeting telomere attrition.
Longevity biotech Rejuvenation Technologies has emerged from stealth with $10.6 million in seed financing to develop mRNA-based therapeutics to address mechanisms of aging. The funding round was led by Khosla Ventures, with Shanda Ventures, Asymmetry Ventures, Merchant Adventures, Longevity Tech Fund, and Y Combinator also participating.
Rejuvenation is on a mission “to extend human healthspan” and its lead candidate targets telomere shortening – one of the key Hallmarks of Aging that drive age-related disease. The company says it has developed an mRNA approach “capable of rewinding 10 years of telomere shortening with a single dose.”
mRNA therapy reverses telomere shortening
In 2009, research that linked telomeres and telomerase (the enzyme responsible for maintenance of telomere length) to cellular aging was recognized with the Nobel Prize. Rejuvenation’s founders have since published research showing that telomerase mRNA can be used to reverse telomere shortening, and recently invented a way to deliver telomerase mRNA to stem cells in vivo.
“Our vision is a single therapy taken every few years to prevent age-related diseases,” said Dr John Ramunas, co-founder and CEO of Rejuvenation. “By extending telomeres in the human body, our goal is to increase human longevity. Yamanaka factors and other approaches address different mechanisms of aging, but not telomeres. Most of these are downstream of short telomeres, but our approach addresses the fundamental aging clock. Our synthetic mRNA-based approach holds great promise for patients with chronic age-related diseases.”
Rejuvenation also revealed it has been successful in securing $4.6 million in grant funding, bringing the total amount raised by the company to $15.2 million. The company says the funding will be used to advance its programs in fibrotic disease, as well as early research targeting the immune system.
‘Remarkable’ preclinical efficacy
Rejuvenation’s products are optimized telomerase mRNA encapsulated in a custom tissue targeted lipid nanoparticle. The company says it plans to expand its operations and bring on additional team members to oversee scale-up manufacturing, clinical operations, and R&D efforts to expand mRNA delivery capabilities to additional organ systems.
“A single dose of our telomerase mRNA reverses years of telomere shortening in hours,” said Dr Glenn Markov, co-founder and COO of Rejuvenation. “Rejuvenation’s LNP technology can also deliver mRNA to the lung and liver, and we’ve shown remarkable efficacy in preclinical models in both liver fibrosis and liver failure.”
Ramunas and Markov completed their PhDs on telomere extension and epigenetic reprogramming in the lab of Stanford University professor Helen Blau, who is also a co-founder of Rejuvenation.
“Telomeres represent a fundamental aging clock that shorten as we age,” said Blau. “Reversing telomere shortening would potentially prevent several age-related diseases. At the cellular level, short telomeres result in a chronic DNA damage response, reduced mitochondrial function, senescence and cell death. To deliver mRNA to the body, Rejuvenation developed proprietary LNP technology to deliver therapies into the lung and liver.”
The company has also appointed University of Queensland professor Dan Chambers, a thoracic transplant physician and lung fibrosis disease expert, as its Chief Medical Officer.
“The convergence of these technologies, along with immense public interest in aging and in mRNA due to mRNA-based COVID vaccines, has helped Rejuvenation attract top talent and grant funding, to support their rapid progress,” said Alex Morgan, Partner, Khosla Ventures. “It is possible that telomere extension may have a similarly broad impact on the body’s molecular aging clocks with positive impact on multiple disease areas. We are excited to continue working together as Rejuvenation advances its technology platform, partnership discussions, and internal pipeline towards clinical trials.”