Seeking consensus on the biomarkers of aging

Biomarkers of Aging Consortium unites academic and industry experts to focus on establishing reliable longevity biomarkers.

A new consortium focused on developing, validating and implementing biomarkers of aging and longevity was unveiled yesterday during a webinar hosted by the Foresight Institute. Funded by the Methuselah Foundation, the Biomarkers of Aging Consortium is formed of a diverse group of academic and industry members and seeks to “establish reliable biomarkers of aging, particularly for the identification and evaluation of longevity interventions.”

Longevity.Technology: The formation of the Biomarkers of Aging Consortium represents a significant and vital step forward for the longevity field. To enable a future where interventions can be properly evaluated for their longevity potential, then a set of standards must be developed that will allow the true effect of those interventions to be accurately assessed. While there’s still a long way to go, the first steps towards achieving this difficult goal are now being taken. To find out more, we caught up with Stanford and Harvard researcher, Dr Mahdi Moqri, who leads the consortium’s 2023 Executive Committee.

Moqri acknowledges that some biomarkers of aging have already been developed for population health studies and basic research to better understand aging.

“Our translational and clinical colleagues have started to use these biomarkers in pre-clinical and clinical studies as they could offer powerful tools to identify and evaluate longevity interventions,” he says. “But these biomarkers are not yet tailored for the use in clinical settings as many open challenges still need to be addressed.”

Seeking consensus on the biomarkers of aging
Dr Mahdi Moqri leads the Executive Committee of the Biomarkers of Aging Consortium

Biomarkers of aging experts unite

The kinds of challenges Moqri is talking about include how to choose the right biomarkers, how to interpret them, and how to validate them.

“In addition, we still lack consensus on the most foundational concepts in the field of aging,” he adds.

To work on overcoming these challenges and build consensus, the executive committee invited a diverse panel of 27 experts to work together toward developing the needed frameworks. In addition to its scientific committee of Eric Verdin, Andrea Maier, Michael Snyder, Vittorio Sebastiano and Vadim Gladyshev, the consortium also includes aging and longevity experts such as Alexey Moskalev, Joan Mannick, Alex Zhavoronkov, Nir Barzilai, Matt Kaeberlein, Brian Kennedy, Steve Horvath and many others.

“These experts are the core of our consortium, and we are going to engage more stakeholders from the longevity industry and regulatory bodies with the ultimate goal of establishing reliable biomarkers of aging,” says Moqri, who believes this could be the most diverse and qualified panel of experts on biomarkers of aging ever put together. “Our experts have diverse backgrounds ranging from basic research to translational and clinical studies, to those with first-hand experience working with regulatory agencies.”

Biomarker consensus ‘needed and possible’

The overwhelmingly positive response from the group confirmed to Moqri that consensus building in the field is “both needed and possible.” Over the past few months, the consortium has been working on a collaborative manuscript, currently under review, that proposes a “framework for characterizing and assessing biomarkers of aging, including consensus terminology for several key concepts in this space.”

“In the manuscript, we propose adapting and extending the FDA biomarkers framework to reflect unique aspects of biomarkers of aging, including predictive biomarkers, response biomarkers and surrogate endpoint biomarkers,” says Moqri. “We also propose consensus terminologies regarding biological aging and biomarkers of aging, and a set of criteria for evaluating biomarkers of aging.”

For this initiative, the consortium compiled a list of around 50 biomarkers, starting with the most promising “omics” biomarkers (those coming from within a specific field of biological sciences, such as genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, or metabolomics).

“Within the omic biomarkers, we are specifically focused more on epigenetic biomarkers, which are more typical in ongoing trials,” says Moqri. “They are more commonly used; they’ve been developed for a longer time and more research groups are working on them.”

A long road ahead

While its first manuscript is a great start, Moqri is keen to stress that the work towards establishing consensus on biomarkers of aging is still in its earliest stages.

“We’ve made some progress, but the process showed that there’s still a lot of disagreement on the foundational concepts of aging, and even for the concepts on which we have some agreement, it’s still less than a majority,” he explains. “We first need to have consensus on the on the basic concepts and terminologies to be able to move towards frameworks, and then towards standards and validation methods.”

The next step for the consortium is to start looking more closely at the validation of these biomarkers, which will be more in depth than its first initiative.

“Now that we have a framework and we have a set of terminology we are inviting an even more diverse group of experts,” says Moqri. “We are going to dig deeper and work together on frameworks for the validation of biomarkers of aging. By the end of the year, we are also planning to have a symposium on biomarkers of aging, where all these experts will be invited to come for talks and panel sessions to discuss open questions and challenges.”

The consortium’s first symposium on the biomarkers of aging consortium will take place on December 4th at the Buck Institute.