Targeting inflammaging through glycomics

Avenna claims the first reliable, quantitative biomarkers for subclinical systemic chronic inflammation.

Using the science of glycomics, British start-up Avenna has developed a precision medicine approach that targets inflammatory diseases. From a simple fingerstick blood sample, the company can assess a reliable measure of chronic inflammation, which it then converts into practical biomarkers, tests and care pathways for inflammatory conditions.

Longevity.Technology: There is plenty of research out there to support the roles that glycans play in inflammation and aging, but it’s interesting to see how Avenna is using the science to implement precision treatment plans using this information. We spoke to the company’s co-founder and CEO Nina Skorytchenko to find out more.

The company’s origins stem from research conducted at bioscience company Ludger, which develops analytical technology for medical applications of glycobiology.

Skorytchenko is the founder of Wellcode Life, a scientific wellness company, and in 2017 started a started a collaboration with Ludger’s CEO Dr Daryl Fernandes to target age-related disease.

Skorytchenko’s co-founder at Avenna is Dr Daryl Fernandes – CEO of bioscience company Ludger.

“Later that year we established Avenna to translate and exploit Ludger’s technology and develop our own medical innovations,” she explains. “Since then I’ve worked closely with scientists, clinicians and patients to help translate and commercialise the medical glycomics technology for clinical applications.”

When it comes to the concept of precision medicine, Skorytchenko points out that, while most people agree on the need for it, the practicality of implementing it is another question altogether.

“Everyone is talking about personalization and precision, but when it comes to practice it’s really difficult to use those tools in everyday clinical settings,” she says. “Reason one is usually the high cost, with reason two being the use of non-viable business models.”

Avenna aims to develop precision healthcare solutions for inflammatory disease that are effective, affordable, scalable and accessible – starting with the company’s GlyHealth technology.

“Before we started Avenna, the price for the GlyHealth test was more than £1,000 per sample, but after streamlining the process it’s now £250,” says Skorytchenko. “There’s still a way to go, but the analysis is becoming more affordable. This, coupled with aging populations and the growing burden of chronic inflammatory conditions, make the market conditions for Avenna’s medical technology seem very favourable.”

According to Avenna, GlyHealth allows quantitative measurement of both general and disease-specific inflammatory processes – including subclinical events in the early stages of disease development, prior to the occurrence of tissue and organ damage. As a result, the company says its GlyHealth tests can provide early warning of disease progression and allow early personalised intervention with anti-inflammatory treatments.

Avenna’s first commercial product, GlyHealth-Index, is a biomarker for reliable quantification of systemic chronic inflammation (SCI) without interference from acute inflammatory processes.

“Until now, there have been no viable biomarkers that could be used by doctors to track subclinical chronic inflammation,” says Skorytchenko.

“GlyHealth is, to our knowledge, the first platform technology to provide a reliable, quantitative measurement of SCI – now we can track it. This enables medics to perform early detection and treatment personalisation for patients with undiagnosed chronic inflammatory diseases, and allows them to move towards practicing effective preventative healthcare for these conditions.”

The company has several potential routes to market. It has seen interest from regenerative medicine clinics interested in using GlyHealth to monitor patients undergoing stem cell treatments. It is also  exploring use of the test as a companion diagnostic for anti-inflammatory therapeutics. The latter include biologic drugs for inflammatory bowel disease. But Avenna’s most immediate opportunity lies in the wellness sector, and Skorytchenko has already been implementing the technology at her Wellcode Life company.

“When I started Wellcode Life, we initially provided genetic tests and used the results to inform the personalised nutrition and fitness advice we gave,” she says, “But I soon realised that a client’s genetic profile can tell us about chronic disease possibility but little on chronic disease actuality.”

Today, clients at Wellcode Life are offered Avenna’s GlyHealth test in addition to other tests included in the initial consultation.

“When a person comes to you with hopes of improving their health, as a practitioner you need to determine their current health status, how they arrived at this point, and then develop an evidence-based model of their likely future health trajectory,” says Skorytchenko.

“GlyHealth Index is a precision medicine tool to augment that process, providing rich data on important biomolecular processes that would otherwise be invisible.”

Avenna now intends to expand the use of GlyHealth within the wellness sector, while also looking to continue to explore opportunities with regenerative medicine and biopharma companies. Having been predominantly grant-funded to date, Skorytchenko expects that the company will seek seed funding of around £1.2 million in 2021 to support the company through its next phase.

Images courtesy of Avenna