'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.”