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Longevity Science Group Spins-Off Biotech Start-Up

Naked mole rat on black background

Naked mole rat (Meghan Murphy, Smithsonian’s National Zoo, Flickr.

12 Oct. 2023. An organization funding research on extending the human life span by preventing age-related diseases is founding its first biotechnology company. VitaDAO, a group that calls itself “a community-owned collective” raising funds through decentralized blockchain-based finance, announced the start-up and seed funds for Matrix Biosciences, a company advancing longevity research from labs at University of Rochester in New York. (DAO stands for decentralized autonomous organization.)

VitaDAO is a two year-old enterprise that says it funds early-stage research on longevity, by better understanding, diagnosis, and control of age-related diseases to extend the human life span. The group says it seeks to commercialize promising translational research on aging from academic labs, particularly higher-risk initiatives but also with high reward potential. VitaDAO says it so far has committed $4 million to support 20 projects in longevity research, with major decisions made through the consent of its funders.

While VitaDAO’s official base is Berlin, it operates as a decentralized entity, and in June 2023 raised $4.1 million in seed funds from drug maker Pfizer, Shine Capital, and technology angel investor Balaji Srinivasan, among others. For ongoing finance, the organization says it uses non-fungible tokens or NFTs, an application of blockchain technology to identify and define unique items of value, in this case the underlying intellectual property for research discoveries from VitaDAO’s funded projects, called IP-NFTs. VitaDAO members can also purchase or earn tokens through donations of intellectual property that give holders voting privileges on the group’s direction and initiatives.

Abundance of high molecular weight hyaluronic acid

While VitaDAO has up to now backed research projects, Matrix Biosciences represents the organization’s first spin-off biotechnology company. Matrix Bio is commercializing research from the lab of biology professor Vera Gorbunova at University of Rochester, also co-director of the Rochester Aging Research Center. Gorbunova studies the genomes of long-living mammals, seeking mechanisms for genome stability and longevity that can be applied to humans. One of those species studied by Gorbunova is the naked mole rat that lives up to 40 years, while most other rats have a life span of about three years.

One of the contributing factors to this longer lifetime is the naked mole rat’s abundance of high molecular weight hyaluronic acid that is believed to give that species a higher resistance to cancer. Matrix Bio expects to conduct preclinical studies of hyaluronic acid compounds to discover an optimal candidate for treating cancer and other age-related diseases. VitaDAO says Matrix Bio also plans to develop a class of small molecule or low molecular weight drugs that control enzymes for breaking down hyaluronic acid as candidates for treating cancer other age-related disorders. The group is providing seed funds of $300,000 and plans to supplement that amount in early 2024 with funds raised through IP-NFT tokens.

“Matrix Biosciences,” says Anthony Schwartz, a biotechnology executive tapped to lead Matrix Bio in a VitaDAO blog post, “is navigating a complex development pathway commonly encountered by many early-stage companies during the initial stages of drug discovery.” Schwartz adds, “We are pleased with the early data generated thus far and its potential for advancing into clinical trials.”

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Disclaimer: The author owns shares in Pfizer.

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