Fighting Aging’s Diseases: Humanity’s Biggest Investors Unite

A startup plans to alter the aging of our cells.

10. 30. 16 by Dom Galeon
Duke University
Image by Duke University


Some of humanity’s biggest investors have teamed up to fight diseases that come with aging.

San Francisco-based startup Unity Biotechnology has caught the attention of big investment firms and biotech venture capitalists recently. It’s been working on research with pharmaceutical potential for five years now, receiving initial funding from the likes of venture firm Arch Venture Partners.

Now, in a Series B round of venture capital investments, Unity was able to receive a hefty sum of $116 million. The sum was generated by investments from Fidelity Management and Research Company, Bezos Expeditions (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ investment arm), Partner Funds Management, Venrock, and Baillie Gifford. Wuxi and Mayo Clinic Ventures, already investors in Unity, also joined this deal.


Why the seemingly sudden interest in Unity?


A recent round of studies covering cellular senescence — or cellular aging (from the Latin senex, meaning old)  — have piqued the curiosity of scientists and investors alike. Research has identified how many of the diseases commonly associated with old age are products of cellular senescence.

What if we could remove cells that cause aging diseases? Could we stop aging itself?

“Cell senescence is one of the aging mechanisms. It’s not the only reason we age. It’s going to take human beings decades to figure out what all the aging mechanisms are,” said Nathaniel David, co-founder and president of Unity, according to Forbes. “But we do know that if you perturb senescence in mice, they age more slowly, and differently.”

Mice of the same age, except the one on the right has been cleared of senescent cells. Credits: Jan van Deursen and Darren Baker, Mayo Clinic

David refers to a study published in Science by the Mayo Clinic and the Buck Institute for Research on Aging featuring a new approach that allows for selective removal of senescent cells from atherosclerotic plaque build up inside artery walls (this build up usually leads to cardiovascular diseases). The scientists were able to disrupt cellular senescence in mice using transgenic and pharmacological techniques.


Perhaps, biotechnology research made possible with a good amount of funding may be the key to aging without ailments in the future — or maybe to not age, at all.

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