Rejuvenate Bio banks $10M to advance gene therapy for aging in humans and dogs

Rejuvenate Bio teamed up with the American Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club on a study testing the gene therapy in dogs with mitral valve disease in 2019. (Courtney Mihaka / Unsplash)

What if we could tackle multiple age-related ailments such as heart failure and kidney failure with a single injection, instead of piling on many different treatments? That’s the goal for Rejuvenate Bio, a Harvard startup working on a combination gene therapy to reverse aging in people—and in dogs.

The company raised more than $10 million in its series A round to propel its gene therapy toward the market for the treatment of heart disease in dogs and toward the clinic for the treatment of aging-related conditions in humans, including heart failure, kidney failure, Type 2 diabetes and obesity.

“We are fortunate to double-dip on our data—often, data generated in dogs not only serves as a step forward for animal health, but also as preclinical data for human health products,” said Rejuvenate Bio CEO Dan Oliver, who co-founded the company alongside renowned geneticist George Church, Ph.D., and Noah Davidsohn, Ph.D., a former postdoctoral fellow in Church’s lab at Harvard and the company’s chief scientific officer.

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“A key experiment outstanding for us is an FDA safety trial if viewed from the animal health lens, which will also serve as a pre-IND toxicity study for human clinical trials,” Oliver said.

Rejuvenate Bio’s treatment is a gene therapy that dials up expression of the genes sTGFbetaR2 and FGF21 to reduce levels of the cytokine TGF-beta1 and boost levels of the hormone FGF21, respectively. Both genes are associated with longevity.

“What we have seen from using a combination of two genes is the ability to affect multiple age-related diseases at once,” Oliver said.

Rejuvenate Bio published data in November 2019 showing that targeting these two genes in mice reduced kidney atrophy and reversed weight gain and Type 2 diabetes. The company had given extra copies of those genes, alone and in combination with each other and another gene called alpha-Klotho to see if they could boost the mice’s health and life spans. It found out that more isn’t necessarily better, as mice that were given all three genes together fared worse than the other animals did.

The same year, Rejuvenate Bio teamed up with the American Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club on a study testing the gene therapy in dogs with mitral valve disease, the most common type of heart failure in dogs.

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“In dogs thus far, we’ve seen the ability to consistently overexpress those proteins. We’ve had these treatments in dogs for over a year now and seen no adverse events,” Oliver said. The company expects data from that study to read out later this year.

Rejuvenate’s series A comes from Kendall Capital Partners, gene therapy pioneer and AskBio president of therapeutics Katherine High, M.D., V Capital, Kdt Ventures and Digitalis Ventures.