September 2014

September 2014

Rejuvenation Biotechnology 2014: SRF's First Silicon Valley Conference Brings Variety of Experts, Perspectives Together

The Rejuvenation Biotechnology 2014 conference (RB2014), hosted by SENS Research Foundation, was held August 21-23 in Santa Clara, California, and attended by more than 350 participants.

 

"The goal of RB2014 was to design a conference that would offer something for everyone - from the latest insights presented by our scientific, business and venture capital speakers, to the latest research on diseases such as Alzheimer's, cancer, heart disease and diabetes," said Mike Kope, CEO, SENS Research Foundation. "We are very pleased that the conference succeeded at deepening our attendees' understanding in their respective fields, building communities of interest, and creating collaborations that will ultimately help shape the future of the burgeoning Rejuvenation Biotechnology industry."

 

Conference highlights included keynote speakers (pictured below, left to right):
  • George Church, Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School and Professor of Health Sciences and Technology at Harvard and MIT: New Epigenome Analysis and Engineering Technologies for Reversal of Aging
  • Jim O'Neill, Partner and Chief Operating Officer, Mithril Capital Management: Fight Aging with a Durable Business
  • Peter Diamandis, Co-founder and Vice Chairman, Human Longevity, Inc. and Founder and CEO, X PRIZE Foundation: Creating a Culture of Innovation and Breakthroughs
      
 
Other panel topics included Molecular and Cellular Damage as the Cause of the Diseases of Aging; Advancing Regenerative Therapies in Alzheimer's, Cardiovascular Disease, Cancer, Parkinson's, Musculoskeletal Disease and Diabetes; Applying a Damage Repair Paradigm to Developing Therapies for the Diseases of Aging; and Toward a New Research Paradigm.
 
RB2014 concluded with a panel discussion on Building a Rejuvenation Biotechnology Industry. The panel synthesized discussions from all the conference sessions, discussing the merits of a damage repair paradigm for the diseases of aging and the changes required to lay the groundwork for a new industry perspective.
 
We would like to thank the sponsors of this year's Rejuvenation Biotechnology 2014:
  • Gold - Sierra Sciences
  • Silver - BioWatch, Genetics Policy Institute, LifeExtension, MetaMed, and Regenerative Medicine Foundation
  • Bronze - International Antiaging-Systems, PeproTech, and Sartorius Stedim Biotech
  • Supporting - Athens Research & Technology and the International Institute for the Advancement of Medicine
  • Media - Rejuvenation Research
To all our keynote speakers, presenters, students, staff, and everyone who participated in this landmark conference: thank you for your time, expertise, and support!
 
We think RB2014 was a tremendous success -- but don't take our word for it. We encourage you to check out some of the terrific media coverage the conference has received:

 

CRISPR and Rejuvenation Biotechnology: have you been hiding under a rock?
Life, death and regulation

This Is So Today: SENS Foundation Kicks Off New Conference on Aging

 

For more information visit: http://sens.org/rb2014.

2014 SRF Summer Scholars present their research at RB2014

 

Another successful summer of student research has come to an end. SRF would like to thank all of the 2014 Summer Scholars for their hard work and impressive achievements during this year’s program. The students (pictured below) and their mentors were honored at a dinner prior to the Rejuvenation Biotechnology Conference.

 

 

The Summer Scholars also shared their project results during the poster sessions (pictured below) at RB2014.

 

 

Learn more about each student’s research in the Summer Scholar profiles found in the SRF Education Blog.

 

Upcoming Events

 

Eurosymposium on Healthy Ageing, October 1-3, 2014, Brussels, Belgium (Royal Library). SRF Chief Science Officer Dr. Aubrey de Grey will speak in two panel sessions: Hallmarks of Ageing and The Most Promising Intervention Strategies in Ageing

 

 

Silicon Valley Leadership Group (SVLG) Annual Strategy conference, October 16-17, 2014, Mike Kope, CEO of SENS Research Foundation to speak.

 

 

Exponential Medicine, November 9-12, 2014, San Diego, CA. SRF CSO Dr. Aubrey de Grey will be speaking.

 

SRF To Sponsor World Stem Cell Summit 2014

 

SENS Research Foundation is proud to be a Bronze Level Sponsor of this year's World Stem Cell Summit

 

 

The World Stem Cell Summit is the largest global meeting of stem cell science and regenerative medicine stakeholders. Attendees enjoy unequaled opportunities for networking, collaboration, new partnerships, and shaping the future of this rapidly advancing field.

 

The WSCS will be held December 3-5, 2014, at the Marriott RiverCenter, San Antonio, TX, USA. SRF CSO Dr. Aubrey de Grey will be moderating a panel at the conference (details to come in future communications).

 

Discounted rates end October 26, 2014. Register now to secure your admission. 

SRF In The News

 

Scientist Claims Menopause Will Not Exist in 20 Years Time (via guardianlv.com). Featuring comments from SRF CSO Dr. Aubrey de Grey on the potential impact of stem cell and other regenerative therapies on human reproduction.

 

 

Question of the Month #6: Meeting The Challenges of the Regulatory Maze and Getting Rejuvenation Biotech Into the Clinic

 

Q: In response to a previous question of the month, you explained why the fact that "aging" is not recognized as a "disease" for which the FDA and other regulatory bodies license therapies should not actually pose a significant hurdle to getting rejuvenation biotechnologies licensed and into widespread use. But there was a lot of discussion at the recent Rejuvenation Biotechnology 2014 Conference about the challenges to rejuvenation biotechnology posed by current regulatory structures and some gestures toward what might be needed to advance the science into the clinic. Would you spell those out?

 
A: Rejuvenation biotechnologies are a new approach to preventing and treating the diseases and disabilities of aging, based on the repair and maintenance of the cellular and molecular structures that become damaged over time. Degenerative aging processes occur all across our bodies as this damage accumulates in particular tissues; the "diseases" that emerge in our bodies late in life are simply the recognizable impairment of organ-specific function resulting from the gradual build-up of this damage.
 
This approach is so new that it is not very well-served by current regulatory structures, which mostly assume the presence of an existing disease, and that drugs will either alleviate current symptoms, or will intervene in metabolic pathways that perpetuate aspects of abnormal function without having any effect on the underlying damage that causes it.
 
Several regulatory changes would help to bring rejuvenation biotechnologies into clinical trials and then into widespread use. One is to reverse the sequence in which rejuvenation biotechnologies are tested.
 
First, there are several states of ill health driven by the degenerative aging process that are clearly extremely disabling and deadly, but that are not yet recognized as "diseases" by the FDA. The most glaring of these is sarcopenia (or, some have argued, "dynapenia"): the age-related loss of muscular strength that results from the combination of loss of muscle mass, and the degradation of the cellular and molecular integrity of what muscle remains. Sarcopenia is highly disabling, restricts people's ability to take care of themselves, increases the risk of accidents and fractures, and is strongly linked to increased risk of death — but it is not yet a licensed "disease" indication.
 
Fortunately, the FDA seems to be open to the idea of developing a new indication for therapies that combat sarcopenia, and several pharmaceutical companies are working in the field. There have now been several scientific conferences and high-level summit meetings in which senior FDA officials, sarcopenia researchers, and major pharmaceutical companies have worked toward defining diagnostic criteria and suitable outcomes for licensing anti-sarcopenia drugs. The sooner they succeed, the better.
 
Second: today, new drugs are usually first tested in patients with existing disease. Regulatory approval depends on the drug showing a clear impact on clearly-defined, hard clinical outcomes such as heart attacks or progression to dialysis. Over time, many therapies initially approved on this basis later come to be used in a more preventive approach in high-risk patients without overt disease, through a mixture of informal practice and clinical trials. This occurred, for example, with statins, antihypertensives, and antidiabetics.
 
Unfortunately, this progression begins to yield useful data too late in the pathological process to optimally test rejuvenation biotechnologies. Our goal is to develop therapies that will keep people's tissues sufficiently healthy and functional that such late-stage pathologies do not occur. Thus, we will want to test these therapies in patients not yet exhibiting overt disease, with minimal or no symptoms and no near-term risk of death or disability from the disease.
 
Instead, it would be preferable for regulators to accept the removal, repair, or replacement of cellular and molecular damage itself as an initial goal of clinical trials. The prevention of particular diseases' emergence would then be incorporated in a kind of "conditional licensing" a longer-term goal, perhaps to be monitored in a robust system of postmarket surveillance. This, again, reverses the usual practice in today's regulatory system, where the endpoint is initially a catastrophic patient outcome such as heart attack or stroke, and only later are surrogate outcomes on mediating metabolic factors (such as lowering LDL cholesterol or blood glucose) accepted.
 
Finally, it would be of tremendous benefit to test rejuvenation biotechnologies in combination with each other from the outset. The normal approval path for a candidate drug entails that it first be tested for effectiveness and safety on its own, or as an add-on to drugs that are already the standard of care. But many specific, diagnosed diseases of aging are actually the clustering together of several forms of aging damage in one or more tissues. Additionally, it is often the case (as with the beta-amyloid protein and aberrant tau species in Alzheimer's disease) that the contributing kinds of aging damage are intertwined with one another in complex causal chains.
 
In such cases, the removal of only one form of aging damage may not be enough to demonstrate a positive effect on tissue function or disease-related outcomes. If researchers are forced to test individual rejuvenation therapies that each remove only one of these contributing forms of damage in isolation, they may well fail to show any meaningful effect, and be kept out of the hands of doctors and patients — even though they would have indefinitely postponed the disease if tested together.
 
This potential dilemma could be resolved if complementary rejuvenation biotechnologies — each targeting one of the key lesions driving such a disease state — could be tested in combination from the outset, following the collection of basic safety data, without first having to prove their individual effectiveness in averting catastrophic outcomes.
 
All of these moves are dramatic departures from the ways that medical therapies are currently tested, approved, and regulated for use. Fortunately, substantial moves in these directions are already afoot in the testing of rejuvenation biotechnologies for Alzheimer's disease and other neurological disorders. We believe that these moves can be supported and normalized, and then used as a template for the testing of rejuvenation biotechnologies generally.
 
-Michael

The "Question of the Month" column is your opportunity to submit your research-related queries to SRF's expert science writer Michael Rae. Please send your questions to foundation@sens.org and they may be featured in a future newsletter.

 

 

 

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