Anti-aging biotech Elevian raises $15M as it looks to the clinic

Early-stage biotech Elevian has raised $15 million as it looks to target multiple age-related diseases.

The Allston, Massachusetts-based company said the small raise would help its preclinical work toward the clinic to treat stroke and other age-related diseases.

Elevian was launched two years ago with $5.5 million in backing to develop drugs based on GDF11 (growth differentiation factor 11), a Harvard University-discovered protein it says is linked to age-related diseases.

GDF11 hit the headlines a few years back when researchers led by Harvard cell biologist Amy Wagers, Ph.D., published studies suggesting the protein was behind research dating back decades that shows blood taken from young mice and administered to older animals could help rejuvenate organs.

The work on GDF11—which involved a technique called parabiosis in which the circulatory systems of young and old mice were combined to allow blood to flow between the animals—suggested that injecting the protein into old mice regenerated cardiac, brain and muscle tissue. It was named Science magazine's breakthrough of the year in 2014.

The hypothesis quickly became controversial, however, when another research group from the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research (NIBR) tried and failed to reproduce the findings, and in fact concluded that GDF11 increases with age and inhibits skeletal muscle regeneration.

Since then, the two groups have traded blows over the integrity of their studies and research methods, but Elevian remains committed to the idea that the protein plays a key role in anti-aging.

It now has extra cash to try to prove it. The financing, including conversion of prior notes, was led by Prime Movers Lab and involved the participation of Bold Capital Partners, For Good Ventures, Kizoo Ventures, Lauder Partners, Longevity Fund, SavEarth Fund, WTI and several prominent angels.

“Recombinant GDF11 is a novel therapy and approach to treating stroke and other age-related diseases. Elevian has assembled a team of excellent leaders to develop this multi-disease therapy,” said Suzanne Fletcher, a general partner at Prime Movers Lab and now board member of Elevian.

“We look forward to supporting this innovative company focused on treating devastating diseases.”

Alongside the financing, the biotech has also nabbed Yongting Wang, Ph.D., as its director of protein biochemistry and neuroscience. Wang was formerly professor of neuroscience at Shanghai Jiaotong University, investigating the mechanism of injury and repair after ischemic stroke.

“The support and commitment from our new and existing investors demonstrate confidence in Elevian's vision to treat multiple age-related diseases by targeting the GDF11 pathway,” added Mark Allen, M.D., CEO and co-founder of Elevian.

“We are focused now on advancing our first drug, rGDF11 toward the clinic both to promote recovery after stroke and to treat obesity.  The expansion of our executive team and the additions to our board of directors will help to guide Elevian as we enhance our understanding of aging and age-related diseases.”