YuvaBio – tackling wrinkles, hair loss… and fertility

Treatments that target mitochondrial dysfunction as a therapy for hair loss and wrinkles could have benefits for slowing ovarian aging, delaying the menopause and extending fertility.

DISCLOSURE: Longevity.Technology (a brand of First Longevity Limited) has been contracted by the company featured in this article to support its current funding round. Qualifying investors can find out more via the Longevity.Technology investment portal.

You might need a microscope to see mitochondria, but the effects of research are being soundly felt in the longevity sector. Not only do mitochondria produce 95% of the body’s energy [1], they also play a key role in apoptosis, store calcium and produce heat. However, mitochondria accumulate damage with age, and their dysfunction increases. The presence of dysfunctional mitochondria has been associated with aging, neurological and degenerative disorders, obesity, type 2 diabetes and cancer. Mitochondria have their own DNA, mtDNA, and this has an estimated 10-fold greater mutation rate than nuclear DNA and less repair capacity [2];

this also plays an important role in aging. In fact, mitochondrial dysfunction is one of the nine hallmarks of aging, and this dysfunction is linked to the other eight. It is no wonder, then, that really understanding and addressing what’s happening to our mitochondria as we get older, could bring a number of exciting treatments and therapies to market.

Longevity.Technology: Bringing a drug out of the lab and into the clinic is a very long and equally costly process, and a frustrating one if you have a product you want people to benefit from sooner rather than later. US start-up Yuva Biosciences takes a savvy approach to harnessing its mitochondrial science; by addressing skin aging and age-related hair loss through topical cosmeceuticals, discovery to shelf is a faster, more streamlined process, and the company can continue to progress its other pipelines at the same time.

Science that can tackle hair loss, wrinkles and ovarian aging might seem optimistic, but because Yuva Biosciences are targeting mitochondrial dysfunction, it’s more a case of ‘one size fits all’ than some other approaches – the appliance of science in a very smart way. In order to find out more about the company’s research and route to market, we sat down with Chairman Greg Schmergel.

For Yuva Biosciences, the route to the restoration of mitochondrial function lies in the up-regulation of certain genes which are affected by the compounds the company has discovered so far; this mechanism of action works the same in every tissue and organ in the body and means that Yuva’s work in hair and skin is translatable to other areas.

Yuva Bioscience has already started doing some preclinical work to demonstrate a link between mitochondrial dysfunction and ovarian aging and fertility.

“Once we raise the next round of funding, we’ll be able to develop a mouse model that is specific to mitochondrial dysfunction and ovarian aging, and then begin testing various treatments,” explains Schmergel. “We also have in vitro assays and AI development and human trials that we have already started. Our lead compounds include both natural (derived from plants, fungi, &c) and FDA-approved drugs that were previously approved for other indications. We screen both of those databases and the goal is to find the compounds that restore mitochondrial function – and we’ve already found several.”

Yuva Biosciences plans to use its active base ingredients in a range of products as the delivery method will be different (don’t expect to see a topically-applied cream for ovaries on the shelves anytime soon), but also the company hopes to license its IP and partner with existing haircare and skincare conglomerates. This fits with the upsurge of interest in personalised products, with customers choosing products tailored to their specific needs, rather than a generalised ‘works for anyone’ approach.

This will also allow Yuva to crack on with research, rather than focusing on marketing and Schmergel is aware that as well the current pipelines, there are future opportunities as well.
“There is a quite a range of potential indications we can target, as mitochondrial dysfunction underlies so many diseases and disorders,” Schmergel explains.

“Neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s, have mitochondrial dysfunction as a component, so restoring mitochondrial function could slow down and help alleviate the affects – but this is in the future and we’re already pretty busy with the first three indications!”

Yuva’s base ingredients could also be used in conjunction with other antiaging compounds. “Improvement of mitochondrial function as a therapy that can assist with the alleviation or cure of a variety of diseases – helping your mitochondria generate more energy for cells to do what they are supposed to do can help fight a wide range of diseases,” says Schmergel.

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And having more energy means faster repair of damage, faster recovery from illness and an improved sense of wellness; this is something that Yuva Bio has observed in its research, as Schmergel explains:

“When Yuva Biosciences’ founder, Dr Keshav K Singh, tested our lead compound Y100 on preventing and reversing mitochondrial dysfunction in mice it was extremely successful in preventing hair loss and skin wrinkles – both easily visible and quantifiable.

Out of the potential hundreds of targets to go after, Yuva Bio picked hair and skin first, because they are less complex than other parts of the human body and can be addressed with topical applications. In addition, because the company’s lead compound is a natural compound that is generally recognised as safe (GRAS) already, it can go market as a cosmeceutical, without going through the FDA approval process, giving Yuva a swifter route to market with its hair and skin products while it works in parallel on its longer-term products that do need FDA approval.

“We’re already doing hair and skin human trials – both in vivo and ex vivo with over forty participants – and we expect the product to be a topical cream,” says Schmergel. “It’s science that Keshav has been working on for a long time – mitochondrial science for over a couple of decades and the mouse model itself over nine years – there is a tremendous amount of work behind the products.”

Recognition of how fundamental mitochondrial science is, especially in respect of aging, is growing, says Schmergel.

“We’ve been very happy to see the new attention paid to the ovarian aging space,” he says. “We were shocked, really, as we were coming from the point of the view of the science that Keshav had developed, showing the links between mitochondrial dysfunction and ovarian aging, menopause and fertility issues, but when we looked at the market, knowing what a huge issue this is for women, we expected to see a crowded landscape with dozens of start-ups attacking this area. We were shocked to find out how few companies are addressing ovarian aging and, as far as we know, no other companies addressing mitochondrial dysfunction as a key cause of ovarian aging.

“It’s becoming a larger and larger problem, as women have children later in life, and it translates into a societal issue, affecting women’s careers, and fertility issues can translate into psychological problems. Premature menopause and primary ovarian insufficiency affect millions of women, and ovarian aging and premature ovarian aging have financial, health and psychological costs associated with them. It’s a $160 billion a year market and that’s a huge market to have so few companies associated with it.”

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[1] https://www.cell.com/trends/endocrinology-metabolism/fulltext/S1043-2760(12)00136-1
[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6627182/

Images courtesy of Yuva Biosciences