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Biotech Start-Up Begins Longevity Therapy Work

Older couple

(Mabel Amber, Pixabay)

15 Apr. 2022. A new biotechnology company has begun developing gene therapies aimed at reprogramming cells damaged by the aging process. YouthBio Therapeutics in Seattle was formed last year by entrepreneurs and angel investors Yuri Deigin and Viet Ly, but details of the company’s early financing were not disclosed.

YouthBio Therapeutics is building on research by Joao Pedro de Magalhaes, professor of aging science at University of Liverpool in the U.K. De Magalhaes’s lab studies genetic, cellular, and molecular mechanisms of aging, focusing on connections between genomics and traits or outcomes in the human body. The lab studies interactions of genes affecting the aging process, using systems biology and bioinformatics tools, and compiled a database of genes in humans and model organisms such as mice related to aging. That database contributes to work by De Magalhaes and colleagues on age-related cellular deterioration and rejuvenation.

A rejuvenation technique studied by De Magalhaes’s lab is called Yamanaka factors, named for Shinya Yamanaka at Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco. Yamanaka discovered adult cells in the body can be reprogrammed into induced pluripotent stem cells resembling embryonic stem cells without taking cells from embryos, for which Yamanaka won a Nobel Prize in 2012. Induced pluripotent stem cells can be differentiated or transformed into a wide range of cells and tissues in the body.

Partial reprogramming of cells

De Magalhaes joins YouthBio Therapeutics as the company’s chief scientist. “Cellular reprogramming allows us to rejuvenate cells and reset their biological clocks,” says de Magalhaes in a company statement released through Cision. “It is the most important technology available today for developing rejuvenation therapies, although it still needs to be fine-tuned for effective and safe applications.”

YouthBio is joined as well by Alejandro Ocampo at University of Lausanne in Switzerland, who also studies cellular reprogramming to counteract deterioration from the aging process. In particular, Ocampo’s lab studies epigenetics — modifications in DNA that turn gene expression on and off without changing genetic sequences — related to cellular programming. His research with animals includes a fine-tuning of Yamanaka factors to enable partial reprogramming of cells as a mechanism to reverse cellular and physiological indicators of aging, improve recovery from metabolic illness and injury, and lifespan extension. Ocampo is serving as a lead consultant to the company.

Yuri Deigin and Viet Ly are serving respectively as YouthBio’s CEO and chief financial officer. Deigin has started biotechnology enterprises, including businesses working with age-related neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Ly is an angel investor, also in biotech companies, and serves as an advisor to gene therapy developer Genprex.

“I have been an early investor in multiple industries for almost two decades,” says Ly, “and I don’t think I have seen a sector with as much potential as longevity biotech is showing right now.”

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