SAN FRANCISCO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Unity Biotechnology today announced that it is developing medicines to treat and eliminate age-related diseases and increase healthspan, or the amount of time an individual lives in good health. Unity‘s initial funding has been led by founding investor ARCH Venture Partners, with significant contributions from Venrock, WuXi, Mayo Clinic, Unity’s management team and others.
Unity will initially focus on cellular senescence, a biological mechanism theorized to be a key driver of many age-related diseases, including osteoarthritis, glaucoma and atherosclerosis. A study published in the February 3, 2016, issue of Nature demonstrated that periodic clearance of “toxic” senescent cells in naturally-aged mice preserved a wide array of tissue and organ functions, delayed tumor formation, and extended lifespan by as much as 35 percent, all without any observed adverse effects.1 A previously published study demonstrated that a pharmacologic agent could kill senescent cells in mice by targeting a pathway critical for senescent cell survival.2
“Imagine drugs that could prevent, maybe even cure, arthritis or heart disease or loss of eyesight. It’s an incredible aspiration,” said Nathaniel David, Ph.D., chief executive officer and co-founder of Unity Biotechnology. “If we can translate this biology into medicines, our children might grow up in significantly better health as they age. There will be many obstacles to overcome, but our team is committed and inspired to achieve our mission.”
Unity Biotechnology has the most comprehensive cellular senescence intellectual property estate in the industry, controlling the patents that arose from foundational science published in premiere scientific journals, including Nature and Nature Medicine. Lead authors of these seminal papers and various other investigators associated with the Mayo Clinic contributed to the formation of Unity. Unity’s scientific co-founders include: Jan M. van Deursen, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Mayo Clinic; Judith Campisi, Ph.D., professor at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging; and Daohong Zhou, Ph.D., professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
“This has been a long journey, and we’re at the point now where we can start making medicines to achieve in humans what we’ve achieved in mice,” said Dr. van Deursen. “I can’t wait to see what happens as we move into the clinic.”
Unity’s executive team has collectively moved more than 90 therapeutic candidates into human clinical trials and is responsible for the creation of 13 FDA-approved medicines. In addition to Dr. David, who was previously chief scientific officer of Kythera and has co-founded four other successful biotechnology companies that together raised over $1.5 billion in financing, other members of the management team include:
- Keith R. Leonard, executive chairman; he was previously chief executive officer of Kythera
- Jamie Dananberg, M.D., chief medical officer; he was previously EVP and head of the Cardiovascular and Metabolic Therapeutic Area Unit at Takeda Pharmaceuticals
- Dan Marquess, D. Phil., chief scientific officer; he previously served as VP, Research Leadership and head of Medicinal Chemistry at Theravance Biopharma, Inc.
Unity’s board of directors includes Mr. Leonard, Dr. David, Robert Nelsen, co-founder and managing director of ARCH Venture Partners, Kristina Burow, managing director of ARCH Venture Partners, and Camille Samuels, partner at Venrock.
“It is inspirational to see such a robust engagement of the scientific community, which I think will facilitate an important and requisite dialogue around the development of drugs that change how we treat diseases associated with aging,” said Ms. Burow.
“Unity is one of the few companies that could have an enormous and direct impact on nearly every single person,” added Mr. Nelsen.
About Unity Biotechnology
Unity Biotechnology is designing therapeutics that prevent, halt or reverse numerous diseases of aging. The Company is targeting biological mechanisms that unify many afflictions, including arthritis, heart disease, kidney failure, loss of eyesight and loss of hearing. Many of these diseases share a common root cause in senescence biology. With an initial focus on senescence biology, Unity is designing medicines that lengthen healthspan, the amount of time an individual lives in good health. The Company is committed to advancing the field of aging biology through an open and robust engagement of the scientific community and by facilitating dialogue around the development of drugs that change how humans age. For more information, please visit www.unitybiotechnology.com.
Mayo Clinic and Dr. Van Deursen have a financial interest in the technology referenced in this news release. The revenue that Mayo Clinic will receive is used to support its not-for-profit mission in patient care, education and research.
1 Baker DJ, Childs BG, Durik M, Wijers ME, Sieben CJ, et al. Naturally occurring p16Ink4a-positive cells shorten healthy lifespan. Nature. 2016.
2 Chang J, Wang Y, Shao L, Laberge R-M, Demaria M, et al. Clearance of senescent cells by ABT263 rejuvenates aged hematopoietic stem cells in mice. Nature Medicine. 2016; 22,78-83.