Using unique high-throughput drug screening platform, Epiterna aims to create ‘more time that matters’ for people and their pets.
Epiterna, the Swiss longevity company founded in 2022 by Alejandro Ocampo and Kevin Perez, announced this morning that it has exited stealth and has hit the ground running (with both two legs and four).
Epiterna has a clear ethos: to help people – and their pets – live longer and healthier lives by leveraging its unique high-throughput platform to evaluate drugs and assess their effect on healthy lifespan. Funded by Prima Materia, the investment firm founded by Spotify founder Daniel Ek and Spotify investor Shakil Khan, to the tune of €10 million, Prima Materia’s aim is to help the most ambitious European entrepreneurs find technology solutions to society’s most difficult problems.
Longevity.Technology: Longevity science does not always move swiftly, but by using small molecule drugs that have already been approved for use in people and animals, and which are easier to manufacture, distribute and use than more complex therapies, Epiterna is aiming to translate its discoveries into affordable and accessible solutions that produce longer, healthier and happier lives, both for people and for their companion dogs and cats.
The company’s jumping-off point of approved therapies – small molecule medicines that are already prescribed by doctors or veterinarians – is based on three key pillars: safety, effectiveness and accessibility. It’s refreshing to see a longevity company focusing on delivering outcomes for everyone right from the get-go.
Epiterna also positions itself squarely as focused on aging, not individual age-related diseases. By addressing aging as the root cause of disease and physical decline, rather tackling disease after disease, the company hopes to have a more significant impact on human health and lifespan. Instead of limiting itself to one aging mechanism or pathway, Epiterna’s research platform is designed to identify any medicines that can safely extend lifespan and healthspan.
Cofounder and CEO Alejandro Ocampo PhD explains that Epiterna has its roots in his 15 years of experience as a scientist studying aging, which includes research on aging in yeast during his PhD and later work done at the Salk Institute demonstrating how new therapeutic approaches like epigenetic reprogramming could extend the lifespan of mice. From there, Ocampo started his own laboratory at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland to continue studying how to slow down or reverse aging at the cellular and molecular level.
Epiterna is a dream come true for Ocampo.
“Throughout my career as a scientist studying ageing, I have always dreamed of finding concrete ways to positively impact the lives of people and animals. Now that dream is becoming a reality, with today’s launch announcement of EPITERNA – a spin-off from my laboratory OcampoLab at the University of Lausanne,” he told Longevity.Technology. “Using a unique high-throughput drug screening platform, we are leveraging evidence-based science to create more time that matters for people and their pets.”
With a PhD in Computational Biology and experience at both the University of Lausanne and the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, among others, bioinformatician Kevin Perez PhD is cofounder of Epiterna and serves as its Head of Research. The company also boasts Dr Matt Kaeberlein, Co-Director of The Dog Aging Project, among its strategic advisors.
The company’s screening platform, which it describes as ‘unprecedented’ boasts the ability to test the effect of any medicine on the health and lifespan of multiple animals. The platform evaluates medicines that act at the molecular and cellular level in gold standard animal models of aging research.
“We know that many of the mechanisms controlling the ageing process are conserved across different species, therefore we believe that the medicines that we discover might have higher chances of working in pets and people,” said Ocampo in a launch statement. “We have already assessed hundreds of medicines in smaller animals and more than a dozen in larger ones, validating promising candidates from the literature and identifying previously unknown leads .”
After one year working in the stealth, Epiterna says it has developed the capacity to evaluate thousands of medicines per year in yeast, worms, flies, fish and mice, and is now scaling things up, working to increase its throughput by an order of magnitude over the next two to three years. It plans to do this by further leveraging automation and technology.
What next for Epiterna?
With a goal of translating its research to impact the health of people and their pets, Epiterna is planning a clinical trial in Europe for companion dogs next year. While studying longevity in animals can be a stepping-stone for the evaluation of therapies for people, pet longevity – extending the lifespan and healthspan of our companions – is a fast-growing field of its own. Epiterna also has plans for human clinical trials, and envisages these will be initiated before launch of its first products for companion animals.
Committed to scientific rigor, the company’s products will undergo thorough clinical trials to guarantee their safety and efficacy, but the Epiterna team know that clinical trials are not without challenges – so they are designing trials focused on longevity that can be run in a reasonable time at low cost.
Epiterna also plans to work collaboratively with regulatory agencies such as the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to explore responsible ways to evolve healthcare systems towards preventative medicine.