Aging R&D: The new, old thing in biotech


If you ever wondered what kind of future to expect for R&D on drugs to slow the aging process, pay particularly close attention to this story from The Wall Street Journal

A group of investigators are being lobbied by a host of seniors keenly interested in participating in a new study designed to determine if the commonly used diabetes drug metformin can slow the aging process. That study is closely related to testing at the NIH on therapeutic strategies for preventing the kind of chronic diseases that can blight the final years of the old, from Alzheimer’s to cancer.

Researchers are raising money to do a trial that will follow thousands of seniors for 6 years to test the impact metformin has on aging. Because they’re focused on an old, generic medication, there’s no real market to be pursued. But there is clinical evidence to suggest that this is one common therapeutic that could make a difference.

“The thought of living on until 120 years old fills me with great excitement, and also the thought of drawing my pensions until then would be an amazing gift,” wrote one 71-year-old British man, according to the WSJ story.

That’s a gift that millions of old folks would love to share. And metformin is just one of several new programs that are taking root in aging R&D. On Monday, Unity Biotechnology did a deal to collaborate with China’s Ascentage to develop senolytic treatments for age-related diseases. And Google’s ($GOOG) Calico is pursuing one of the most intriguing efforts in the field under biotech star Art Levinson, the former CEO at Genentech.

Calico, aside from outlining some big plans for new facilities, has been far less forthcoming about what it plans to achieve in the clinic. Still, this nascent field is just getting started. And we’ll all learn a lot more over the next decade.

- here's the story