Alex Zhavoronkov (Insilico)

'Longevi­ty as a ser­vice': In­sil­i­co spins off AI biotech that trains deep learn­ing on an­ti-ag­ing treat­ments

Since its in­cep­tion in 2014, In­sil­i­co has racked up deal af­ter deal on the promise that ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence can has­ten drug de­vel­op­ment, tout­ing their work on dis­cov­er­ing small mol­e­cules. The biotech’s founder, Alex Zha­voronkov, has pub­lished sev­er­al sci­en­tif­ic pa­pers quan­ti­fy­ing just how im­pact­ful this tech­nol­o­gy can be.

On Tues­day, Zha­voronkov ex­tend­ed his AI ex­per­tise in­to the field of an­ti-ag­ing.

In­sil­i­co is spin­ning off a new biotech, Deep Longevi­ty, fo­cus­ing on de­vel­op­ing and fine-tun­ing such AI tech­niques where Zha­voronkov will al­so serve as founder and CEO. Cou­pled with the launch, Deep Longevi­ty an­nounced the com­ple­tion of Se­ries A fund­ing and a col­lab­o­ra­tion with Hu­man Longevi­ty, which owns the world’s largest data­base of se­quenced genomes. Fi­nan­cial terms of the deal were not dis­closed, but Deep Longevi­ty said in a press re­lease it falls some­where in the “few mil­lion” dol­lar range.

To­geth­er, the biotechs will de­ploy an ex­ten­sive range of AI-pow­ered an­ti-ag­ing ser­vices.

“Age is a uni­ver­sal fea­ture that every liv­ing be­ing has, un­like dis­eases, so you can train from re­al­ly mas­sive da­ta to pre­dict age,” Zha­voronkov told End­points News. “In the past we have ex­per­i­ment­ed with oth­er col­lab­o­ra­tion mod­els, but I think that Hu­man Longevi­ty is by far the most cred­i­ble ex­pert in pre­ven­ta­tive care.”

The an­ti-ag­ing in­dus­try is rel­a­tive­ly new. One promi­nent area re­volves around uti­liz­ing “bi­o­log­i­cal clocks” to de­ter­mine one’s bi­o­log­i­cal age rel­a­tive to their ac­tu­al age to flag po­ten­tial com­pli­ca­tions or rec­om­mend pre­ven­ta­tive treat­ments. Most bi­o­log­i­cal clocks that cur­rent­ly ex­ist mea­sure bi­o­log­i­cal age with DNA methy­la­tion, but Zha­voronkov said such meth­ods have not proven very ac­cu­rate.

In­stead, Deep Longevi­ty will feed sev­er­al dif­fer­ent met­rics in­to its AI sys­tem to pro­duce a com­pre­hen­sive ag­ing re­port. The da­ta can come from blood tests, mi­cro­bio­m­ic in­fo and even voice and imag­ing tests. Fi­nal re­ports, which Deep Longevi­ty has dubbed Age­Met­ric, will pro­duce a sin­gle num­ber that rep­re­sents an in­di­vid­ual’s true bi­o­log­i­cal age and break down their age by da­ta cat­e­go­ry.

“Methy­la­tion da­ta is not very in­ter­pretable, so it’s very dif­fi­cult to un­der­stand what’s re­al­ly go­ing on, why a per­son is ag­ing and what to do about it, what to change to, quote-un­quote ‘get younger,’” Zha­voronkov said. “[Ours] is a deep neur­al net­work where you have 41 pa­ra­me­ters of in­put and just one fea­ture on out­put — your age — and we re­al­ized that this sys­tem is pret­ty pre­dic­tive.”

De­spite heavy ear­ly in­vest­ment in biotechs like Uni­ty and Cal­i­co, an­ti-ag­ing treat­ments have strug­gled to get off the ground. No­var­tis spin­out resTOR­bio reg­is­tered a high-pro­file flop last No­vem­ber af­ter the Phase III study for its lead clin­i­cal pro­gram showed its can­di­date — a TORC1 in­hibitor — per­formed slight­ly worse than a place­bo in pre­vent­ing clin­i­cal­ly symp­to­matic res­pi­ra­to­ry ill­ness in pa­tients 65 and old­er.

But Deep Longevi­ty isn’t fo­cus­ing on drug dis­cov­ery or de­vel­op­ment. By us­ing its AI to cre­ate these re­ports, Zha­voronkov said he hopes the biotech can pro­vide an es­sen­tial ser­vice to its cus­tomer base and the “ul­tra-high-end” hos­pi­tals that treat them.

“The idea is to pro­vide what we call longevi­ty as a ser­vice, how like soft­ware is a ser­vice,” Zha­voronkov said. “You send the da­ta in, you get the num­ber back, and you al­so get this num­ber in­ter­pret­ed. We al­so tell you what has con­tributed to you look­ing old­er or younger and pos­si­ble be­hav­ioral mod­i­fi­ca­tions that the doc­tor could pre­scribe to be able to re­verse this dif­fer­ence.”

As the an­ti-ag­ing in­dus­try grows, so will its cred­i­bil­i­ty, Zha­voronkov said. The biotech chief added that he hopes the new spin-off will be­come the stan­dard-bear­er of the field’s mea­sure­ment tools.

“Sev­en years ago, most com­pa­nies that are nowa­days not on­ly me­dia dar­lings, but now are ac­tu­al­ly run by very cred­i­ble sci­en­tists and drug de­vel­op­ers, did not ex­ist,” Zha­voronkov said. “We’re wit­ness­ing the birth of an en­tire in­dus­try. The rea­son Deep Longevi­ty is cool is be­cause we can ser­vice this in­dus­try. You can­not in­ter­vene if you can­not mea­sure.”

Spe­cial re­port: Meet 20 ex­tra­or­di­nary women who are su­per­charg­ing bio­phar­ma R&D

Even though many biopharma leaders have come together in recent years to address its gender gap, the consensus is clear: We still have a long way to go.

Companies this year were 2.5 times more likely than last year to have a diversity and inclusion program in place, according to a recent BIO survey, but women are still largely absent from executive roles. Getting women to enter the industry isn’t the problem — studies show that they represent just under half of all biotech employees around the world. But climbing through the ranks can be challenging, as women still report facing stereotypes, and, unfortunately, harassment.

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Op­ti­miz­ing Oral Drug De­liv­ery us­ing Zy­dis® Oral­ly Dis­in­te­grat­ing Tablet Tech­nol­o­gy to Ad­dress Pa­tient Chal­lenges

KEY POINTS

Patients prefer oral dosing, but swallowing tablets can be a challenge for many patients.
The Zydis® orally disintegrating tablet (ODT) platform addresses challenges associated with oral dosing, expanding benefits for patients and options for healthcare providers.
A strong growth trajectory is expected for ODTs given therapeutic innovation and continued technology development.

Many patients prefer conventional tablets for the administration of medications, but some geriatric and pediatric patients and those with altered mental status and physical impairments find swallowing tablets to be difficult. Orally disintegrating tablets (ODTs), which dissolve completely without chewing or sucking, offer a patient-friendly dosage form for the administration of small-molecule drugs, peptides and proteins. With the potential for multiple sites of drug absorption, often faster onset action for the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API), and potentially greater bioavailability, ODTs are an attractive option for drug developers considering first-to-market formulations or product line extensions of existing drugs with compatible API. In this report, we look at how innovation in the industry-leading Zydis ODT platform is expanding oral formulation options and bringing benefits to patients.

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Geoffrey Porges (SVB Leerink)

The 2022 wave com­ing? Top an­a­lyst says Big Phar­ma will have more than $1T avail­able to sat­is­fy its grow­ing ap­petite for biotech M&A

All through this year you could practically feel the frustration of the biotech investor class as M&A activity continued to drag behind expectations — or desires. Buyouts of public companies provide the essential juice for keeping stocks lively, and there’s been a notable lack of juice in 2021.

So is all that about to change, big time?

SVB Leerink’s Geoffrey Porges, a longtime student of biotech M&A, thinks so. In a lengthy analysis he put out last week, Porges totted up the cash flow of the major pharmas and determined that there was a good long list of industry buyers who would have around a half trillion dollars of cash to play with in 2022. Leverage that up with added debt and you could get that deal cache to $1.6 trillion.

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Mer­ck pumps the brakes on two more PhI­II tri­als for its lead an­ti-HIV drug

After trial investigators flagged a drop in immune cell counts that an external committee determined was related to treatment last month, Merck has been pausing HIV-related Phase II and III trials ever since.

On Monday, the biopharma company announced it’s pausing enrollment in two of its Phase III trials evaluating its leading anti-HIV drug candidate, which is the once-monthly, oral islatravir.

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Róbert Wessman, Alvotech chairman and founder

Ice­landic bil­lionare's biosim­i­lar com­pa­ny rais­es $450M, preps for Nas­daq launch with SPAC merg­er

As Icelandic billionaire Róbert Wessman tries to take down AbbVie’s megablockbuster Humira in court, he’s also taking his biosimilar upstart to the big time with a $2.25 billion SPAC merger, Nasdaq launch and $450 million raise announced early Tuesday.

While Wessman’s Alvotech has not won FDA approval for any of its biosimilar candidates yet, the company was the first to file with the FDA for approval of its high-concentration Humira biosimilar and to have successfully conducted a switching study in support of a highly-coveted interchangeability designation. But other companies like Amgen, Boehringer Ingelheim and Pfizer have since caught up ahead of the launches of their own Humira biosimilar competitors in 2023.

Gary Glick, Odyssey Therapeutics founder

Al­ways busy, Gary Glick re­cruits Or­biMed in a mas­sive $218M Se­ries A for enig­mat­ic da­ta sci­ence biotech

Gary Glick is back at it again, founding yet another biotech company. And by the sheer size of its first raise, this may be the biggest one yet.

Glick has assembled what he calls an all-star roster and recruited one of the biggest healthcare investors in OrbiMed to put together a massive $218 million Series A for his newest venture, Odyssey Therapeutics. The launch, announced Tuesday morning and co-led by SR One Capital Management, comes not three months after Glick sold First Wave Bio to AzurRx for $229 million.

Bolt Bio CEO Randy Schatzman

Bolt Bio goes bust as in­vestors boo sin­gle re­sponse in ear­ly test against HER2-ex­press­ing tu­mors

Bolt Bio’s BDC-1001, an antibody conjugate drug designed to amp up the body’s innate immune system response to tumors, posted a single partial response in a Phase I/II study in patients with HER2-expressing solid tumors after a year of dosing. Just 13 of 40 evaluable patients showed any signs of “clinical activity,” the biotech said Monday.

BDC-1001 links a HER2-targeting biosimilar of Herceptin with a TLR7/8 agonist, which is designed to activate myeloid cells in the innate immune system and drive tumor cytotoxicity, Bolt said. But the early results paint the picture of a drug with little effect on HER2 tumors, one of the most highly validated tumor targets in drug development.

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Biohaven CEO Vlad Coric (Photo Credit_ Andrew Venditti)

Bio­haven shakes up lead­er­ship team as it feels the heat from mi­graine com­peti­tors

As Biohaven Pharma comes off a rollercoaster pipeline year, its CEO will take on more responsibility in a full C-suite makeover.

Vlad Coric was unanimously elected to the role of chairman of the board of directors, after Declan Doogan’s retirement. Matthew Buten will take over the role of CFO after James Engelhart’s retirement, and director Michael Heffernan has been appointed lead independent director. All of the appointments are effective immediately, a company press release said.

Chen Schor, Adicet CEO

Adicet un­veils ear­ly re­spons­es for off-the-shelf drug lever­ag­ing rare T cells. Will dura­bil­i­ty hold up?

On the hunt for the next generation of “off-the-shelf” cell therapies, biotech players like Adicet Bio have looked to leverage some of the less-obvious members of the immune system as potent cancer fighters. In Adicet’s case, scarce gamma delta T cells are on the menu, and an early cut of data is showing some promise.

Adicet’s AD-001, an off-the-shelf cell therapy developed by engineering a CD20-targeting chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) onto a donor’s gamma delta T cells, posted two complete responses across four patients in an early Phase I study testing the drug in patients with heavily pretreated B cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the biotech said Monday.

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