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.”

Cell and Gene Con­tract Man­u­fac­tur­ers Must Em­brace Dig­i­ti­za­tion

The Cell and Gene Industry is growing at a staggering 30% CAGR and is estimated to reach $14B by 20251. A number of cell, gene and stem cell therapy sponsors currently have novel drug substances and products and many rely on Contract Development Manufacturing Organizations (CDMO) to produce them with adherence to stringent regulatory cGMP conditions. Cell and gene manufacturing for both autologous (one to one) and allogenic (one to many) treatments face difficult issues such as: a complex supply chain, variability on patient and cellular level, cell expansion count and a tight scheduling of lot disposition process. This complexity affects quality, compliance and accountability in the entire vein-to-vein process for critically ill patients.

Phase III read­outs spell dis­as­ter for Genen­tech’s lead IBD drug

Roche had big plans for etrolizumab. Eyeing a hyper-competitive IBD and Crohn’s market where they have not historically been a player, the company rolled out 8 different Phase III trials, testing the antibody for two different uses across a range of different patient groups.

On Monday, Roche released results for 4 of those studies, and they mark a decided setback for both the Swiss pharma and their biotech sub Genentech, potentially spelling an end to a drug they put over half-a-decade and millions of dollars behind.

Eric Shaff (Seres)

UP­DAT­ED: Af­ter a 4-year so­journ, strug­gling mi­cro­bio­me pi­o­neer Seres claims a break­out PhI­II come­back. And shares re­spond in fren­zied spike

Almost exactly 4 years ago, Seres Therapeutics $MCRB experienced one of those soul-crunching failures that can raise big questions about a biotech’s future. Out front in their pursuit of a gut punch to C. difficile infection (CDI), the Phase II test was a flat failure, and investors wiped out a billion dollars of equity value that never returned in the years that followed.

Seres, though, pressed ahead, changing out CEOs a year ago — bidding Merck vet Roger Pomerantz farewell from the C suite — and pushing through a Phase III, hoping that amping up the dosage would make the key difference. And this morning, they unveiled a claim that they had aced the Phase III and positioned themselves for a run at a landmark FDA OK.

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Vi­da Ven­tures co-leads Dyne's $115M megaround for next-gen oli­go ther­a­pies aimed square­ly at mus­cles

Dyne Therapeutics started out last April with a modest $50 million to mine targeted muscle disease therapies from its in-house conjugate technology. The biotech has now convinced more investors that it’s got gems on its hands, closing $115 million in fresh financing to push its next-gen oligonucleotide drugs into the clinic.

Vida Ventures and Surveyor Capital led the round, joined by a group of other new backers including Wellington Management Company, Logos Capital and Franklin Templeton.

In­novent and Eli Lil­ly chal­lenge Mer­ck­'s mega-block­buster Keytru­da in non-small cell lung can­cer field

China-based Innovent Biologics and its multinational ally Eli Lilly shared Phase III evidence that their PD-1 inhibitor combo can delay the progression of nonsquamous non-small cell lung cancer.

But the drugmakers will face stiff competition in China from Merck’s Keytruda, the ruling PD-1 which is already approved to treat both squamous and nonsquamous NSCLC and boasts positive overall survival rates.

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Anap­tys­Bio's etokimab pro­vides more dis­ap­point­ing re­sults, rais­ing ques­tions about com­pound's fu­ture

The lead program for AnaptysBio’s in-house pipeline has hit another setback.

Etokimab, an IL-33 inhibitor, did not achieve statistically significant improvement in a Phase II trial for patients suffering from chronic rhinosinusitis with nasal polyps. Researchers measured the individuals’ bilateral nasal polyps score and sino-nasal outcome test, finding that neither improved upon a placebo after both four- and eight-week time markers, though they did demonstrate improvement over baseline levels of the examinations.

Brian Stuglik, Verastem CEO

The du­velis­ib hot pota­to is tossed to a new own­er as Ve­rastem looks to re­or­ga­nize around the pipeline

When Infinity put up duvelisib for a no-money-down instant deal, the biotech was looking for a quick exit from a clinical disaster. AbbVie had walked away from their alliance after looking at how the data stacked up in a crowded field.

And while it was approvable, it wasn’t looking pretty to anyone who thought in commercial terms.

One Big Pharma’s trash, though, was seen as a biotech treasure as a deeply troubled Verastem stepped up to grab the PI3K-delta/gamma — promising to run it across the goal lines at the FDA. And they did just that, only with little to show for it.

Michel Vounatsos, Biogen CEO (via YouTube)

UP­DAT­ED: Bio­gen scores a pri­or­i­ty re­view for its Alzheimer's drug ad­u­canum­ab, mov­ing one gi­ant leap for­ward in its con­tro­ver­sial quest

Biogen scored a big win at the FDA today as regulators accepted their application for the controversial Alzheimer’s drug aducanumab and gave it a priority review.

The PDUFA date is March 7, 2021.

Significantly, Biogen says it did not use its priority review voucher to win special treatment at the FDA. The agency handed that out gratis.

That’s the ideal scenario Biogen was looking for as disappointed analysts wondered aloud about the delayed application earlier in the year.

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DFC CEO Adam Boehler and Kodak CEO Jim Continenza (Kodak)

Covid-19 roundup: Cure­Vac beefs up its uni­corn IPO dreams as bil­lion­aire own­er takes this Covid-19 mR­NA play­er on a forced march to Nas­daq; Ko­dak's $765M deal is put on hold

When CureVac initially jotted down $100 million for its IPO raise a couple of weeks ago, it seemed small. The German mRNA player, after all, had jumped into a Covid-19 race that swelled the sails of Moderna and BioNTech by tens of billions. And after raising $640 million in a slate of deals, $100 million in a hot market like this seemed like a pittance in the bigger scheme of things.

Today, we got a look at a figure that probably comes closer to the game-changing number the top execs probably have in mind. Selling 15.3 million shares at the high end of their $14 to $16 range would net a $243 million bounty. Majority owner Dietmar Hopp is putting in another €100 million, bringing the total to around $350 million. And what are the chances they want to do even better than that?

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