Jim Mellon’s crew at Juvenescence has found its latest venture idea in a popular diet making its rounds in biotech circles.
Once again teaming up with the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, Juvenescence has launched BHB Therapeutics to explore preventative medicines that have potential to protect against age-related disease by inducing a state of ketosis, where the body burns fat instead of carbs, spurring the production of anti-inflammatory ketone bodies.
In particular, the biotech startup will focus on the ketone body beta-hydroxybutyrate, or — you guessed it — BHB. Eric Verdin, the Buck president and CEO whose research inspired another Juvenescence spinout, has discovered that BHB helps the body respond to stress.
A ketogenic diet — which has been heralded for its effects in weight loss, hunger suppression as well as concentration — and the consequent longterm exposure to ketone bodies can also extend healthy lifespan in model systems, Verdin and collaborator John Newman found.
The duo has generated “hard scientific data” in mice that show ketosis can be cardio-protective, CEO Greg Bailey told Endpoints News. Obviously, they have a long way to go.
“The reason we think that cardio-protection may translate to humans is because if given sugar or ketones, many people’s hearts prefer ketones, whereas the brain is the opposite,” he said. “If given the option between sugar or ketones, the brain will take sugar. Unfortunately, individuals when they hit 50 (plus or minus a couple years) they become insulin resistant — and then the sugar can go seriously high in a variety of organs and that leads to a variety of different pathologies.”
The company is looking to begin “aggressive safety studies” in the near-term, Bailey added. Should the compounds be found safe, he plans to take alternative routes rather than the conventional regulatory pathway — which he believes can lead to quicker human testing.
Just days ago, Juvenescence unveiled the first $46 million tranche of a promised $100 million raise that’s designed to bankroll longevity projects with the collective goal of extending the human lifespan to 150 years. So far, it’s ticked off stem cell tech and organ regeneration among the fields it’s established itself through joint ventures with AI groups — Insilico and Netramark — and controlling interests in AgeX and LyGenesis.
The goal, founder and chairman Mellon said back then, is to have 18 projects underway by the end of the year.
Look for two or three of them to be announced over the next few weeks, Bailey said, noting that there should also be three or four letters of intent going out shortly.
With additional reporting by Natalie Grover.
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