Juvenescence appears to be hitting its stride in initial setup. It will, once further along in its plan, look much like many of the private equity funds that exist in the biotech space, with a portfolio of mutually supporting companies working on therapies for various aspects of aging. We know that at least some of the principals, such as Jim Mellon, are supportive of the SENS rejuvenation research agenda, but it remains to be seen whether or not that will turn out in practice to involve investment in the young companies that have arisen in the SENS community in the past few years. The Juvenescence principals want to be making $5-10 million series A round investments, but if one happens to be looking for focused SENS startups coming up to that point, the list at present is not a long one. So, inevitably, there will be investment in infrastructure biotechnologies or things like mTOR inhibitors and NAD+ upregulation – approaches that I think are probably not going to move the needle all that much. There is a certain urgency in venture matters: once you have raised funds you can’t then sit around and wait for the perfect opportunity.
It is my hope that Juvenescence will follow through with their declared intent to do more than just graze the crop of aging-related companies as they emerge, and will actively engage with the research and entrepreneurial communities to cultivate new projects and new companies. If there is one thing that all parties involved do poorly at present, it is the various steps of the transition from lab to entrepreneur. Researchers don’t reach out to capital or entrepreneurs, there are too few entrepreneurs in biotech as a whole, not many of whom understand aging and the potential for rejuvenation therapies, and most institutions capable of deploying capital sit around waiting for entrepreneurs to show up with the science already nicely packaged with a bow on top. It is a crisis of inaction, and one of the reasons why there is a yawning gulf between research in the laboratory and clinical development in companies.
It is at least the case that anyone who builds a fund to make A-round investments is reliant on much larger movements of capital into the market later, in order to fund the really expensive work of pushing therapies through the regulatory process, and ultimately to purchase the companies in order to provide a return to investors. This means that the Juvenescence principals can be counted on to continue to loudly promote their agenda, and in doing so attract more support and funding to the vital field of rejuvenation research. It is a useful alignment of interests, one that creates a positive feedback loop once it is underway. Capital attracts capital, and in this case that will benefit us all in the long run.
Juvenescence, a UK start-up developing anti-ageing therapies, has raised $50m in Series A financing, with another $100m funding round planned for later this year and an initial public offering in 2019. Juvenescence is building a team of 20 scientists and drug developers in London who will co-ordinate its investments. The biggest investment so far is $8.3m in Insilico Medicine, an artificial intelligence company in the US that applies “deep learning” technology to drug discovery and ageing research. On Monday Insilico itself announced a funding round of $5m to $10m led by WuXi AppTec of China.
Also on Monday, Juvenescence announced a $5m investment in AgeX of California, which is using stem cell technology to regenerate human tissues that are failing through age-related degenerative disease. The most exotic investment is LyGenesis, a spinout from the University of Pittsburgh, which aims to use the patient’s own lymph nodes as a bioreactor to grow a replacement organ if the original is destroyed by disease or fails in old age. It is focusing first on liver regeneration for people with end-stage hepatic disease, and future targets include the thymus, pancreas, and kidney. Juvenescence has also signed commercialisation deals with the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in California and is in negotiation with other biomedical organisations.
AgeX Therapeutics, Inc., a subsidiary of BioTime, Inc., focused on prolonging healthspan through an understanding of the fundamental mechanisms of human aging, today announced that it has closed a $5 million equity financing, through the sale of two million AgeX common shares to Juvenescence Ltd. “This investment, combined with the $10.8 million we previously raised from investors, the recently-announced cash received of approximately $3.2 million from the sale of Ascendance Biotechnology, and our recently-announced $386,000 grant from the NIH, provide sufficient capital for the continued development of our programs into 2020.”
AgeX Therapeutics, Inc. is a biotechnology company focused on the development of novel therapeutics for age-related degenerative disease. The company’s mission is to apply the proprietary technology platform related to telomerase-mediated cell immortality and regenerative biology to address a broad range of diseases of aging. The products under development include two cell-based therapies derived from telomerase-positive pluripotent stem cells and two product candidates derived from the company’s proprietary induced Tissue Regeneration (iTR) technology.