During the Longevity Investors Conference (LIC) 2022 edition, held in the exclusive location of Gstaad in Switzerland, we've had the opportunity to talk to some of the key opinion leaders in the industry. In this rapid fire question mini series, you can get some insights into the current longevity trends, investment advice, as well as hear where the industry is going.
Kristen Fortney and Martin Borch Jensen participated in a few panels during the Longevity Investors Conference, from giving a Longevity industry overview, talking about data and AI application in longevity to explaining how to bridge academia and business. Keep reading for some additional thoughts from Kristen Fortney, CEO and co-founder at BioAge and Martin Borch Jensen, Co-Founder and CSO at Gordian Biotechnology.
Where do you see the biggest areas for improvement in the longevity field? What's holding them back?
Kristen Fortney: Over the past 30 years, we’ve learned so much about what drives aging in laboratory animals, but comparatively little about the pathways underlying healthy longevity in human beings. We need to devote more attention to understanding the unique biological features of human longevity — so instead of hoping that a few mechanisms identified in mice will be conserved in humans, we can focus therapeutic development on mechanisms that we know are relevant to our own aging process. In short, the field needs to focus on identifying the most translational aspects of longevity science and moving that knowledge rapidly into the clinic, where it can help patients.
Martin Borch Jensen: Validating ways to measure processes of aging, to predict future morbidity and mortality. Having such biomarkers would speed up both research and clinical trials, because we wouldn't have to wait for aging to progress. There are a lot of things being measured, but we need rigorous validation of whether they predict the physiological outcomes they purport to.
What, in your opinion, is the current biggest trend in longevity – and what's set to explode?
Kristen Fortney: Cellular reprogramming has received a lot of attention lately, on multiple levels: advances in academic research, the entry of multiple companies entering the field, and the sheer size of investment by some big players. Although the ideas are quite new and applications are likely to be far in the future, the promise of reprogramming for reversing age-related decline is enormous. This area isn’t currently a major focus for BioAge, we wish our colleagues in the cellular reprogramming field the best of luck as they start down the path toward developing therapeutics that can extend healthy lifespan. As for what’s set to explode - what I’m most excited about is the speed of clinical translation and the growing number of aging drugs that are entering clinical trials today, both at BioAge and at other companies in the longevity space. Once we get the first few successful trials, we’ll see an explosion of interest in an already rapidly growing sector.
Martin Borch Jensen: The biggest current trend has to be partial reprogramming, with Altos, Retro, NewLimit, and other companies focusing on this approach to reversing cellular age. Let's see how hard that turns out to be! I think something that will increasingly impact the aging field is high-throughput functional genomics coupled with active learning computational analysis. For example, running a pooled CRISPR screen to knock out genes in a population of cells, isolating cells that fail to turn senescent in response to normal stimuli, then sequencing the gRNAs to identify the target genes and repeating the screen with combinations of these targets. This approach is enabling work in cancer and other fields, and (with the right readouts) will do the same in aging.
What was the inspiration for your longevity point and has the journey been as you expected?
Kristen Fortney: If we could cure all cancers, we would add just a few years to average lifespan. The same goes for all cardiovascular disease, and the many other illnesses that become exponentially more common as we get older. But if we could slow aging in humans to the same extent that we’ve already done over and over again in mice, we could extend longevity by decades, and most of those years would be healthy. Likewise, from the many humans who already live past 100 in good health, we know there must be mechanisms that allow human bodies to enjoy dramatically longer lives. This idea was one of the major inspirations for me to found BioAge. The journey has been exciting, to say the least! I’m constantly impressed by the rapid rate of scientific and now clinical progress in the aging field. As more and more companies and scientific organizations join the fight and more resources enter the field, I see that continuing into the future.