Some years back, the idea of slowing aging and eliminating the complications associated with old age seemed like a fantasy. Today, however, Unity Biotech is making great progress toward making this idea a reality, and its work is so promising that it has bagged $116 million in a Series B round and attracted renowned investors such as Jeff Bezos, Mayo Clinic Ventures, and ARCH Venture Partners. The news comes as a surprise for many people not only because of the likelihood of living a longer and healthier life, but also because little is known about Unity Biotech. Here is a comprehensive review of the company.
Unity Biotech Company Profile
Unity Biotech is a privately owned company that was founded in 2009 by Nathaniel E. David and Keith Leonard. The company’s board of directors is comprised of Keith Leonard, Nathaniel David, Robert Nelsen, Kristina Burow, and Camille Samuels. Other notable members include Jamie Dananberg (chief medical officer) and Dan Marquess (chief scientific officer). Unity Biotech has its headquarters in San Francisco, CA.
What Does Unity Biotech Do?
Unity Biotech seeks to revolutionize health and aging by halting, preventing, and reversing diseases associated with old age. The therapeutics designed by Unity Biotech are used to target senescent cells, which have been linked to the degradation of vital organs as well as the development of age-related diseases such as cancer and arthritis.
Cellular senescence occurs when normal diploid cells stop dividing after about 50 divisions. Although senescent cells were once considered a natural body mechanism that defends against the development of cancer, they have recently been described as toxic and have been blamed for the development of most of the diseases and complications associated with aging. This finding has been supported by a study that was published in 2016 that showed the effect of eliminating senescent cells from naturally-aged mice. The study found that mice that had their senescent cells removed had their health and life spans extended by as much as 35% when compared to ordinary mice.
Unity Biotech currently has the largest and most comprehensive collection of cellular senescence intellectual property, and its technology has improved substantially since its launch in 2009. If successful, then the company’s therapeutics will have more success in the battle against diseases such as kidney failure, heart disease, cancer, arthritis, and loss of hearing and eyesight, just to mention a few. Consequently, more people will enjoy a longer life span and health span (the period when the body is at optimal health).
Unity Biotech Funding
As ambitious as the company’s vision and plans may seem, Unity Biotech has managed to pull off one of the largest rounds of venture funding in the biotechnology industry in 2016. Although details about its Series A round of funding are sketchy, Nathaniel David has been reported saying that the company bagged $11 million in its first five years of operation. This figure, however, is insignificant compared to the money raised in its Series B round.
Unity Biotech made news headlines when it bagged about $116 million in its Series B round. What is even more surprising than the figure is the list of investors who chose to stake their money on the company’s ambitious vision. Investors included notable names such as Jeff Bezos, Baillie Gifford, ARCH Venture Partners, Fidelity Management and Research Company, Mayo Clinic Ventures, WuXi PharmaTech, and Venrock, among others.
According to PitchBook Data Inc., a renowned research company, Unity Biotech has become the tenth biotechnology startup company to bag over $100 million in funding in 2016; the figure is certainly grand for a start-up with such an ambitious vision. According to the company’s founders, the money will be used to expand research on cellular senescence and make preparations for the first clinical trials on human subjects.
A Bright Future Ahead
Unity Biotech certainly has a bright future ahead of it for two main reasons. To start with, the study highlighted earlier is undeniable proof that the company’s fantastical idea is achievable. Since mice are considered the ideal substitutes for humans in medical research, it is expected that similar results will be achieved in people once human trials commence. Secondly, the company has managed to attract enough money to boost its research and upgrade tests to human trials. Additionally, it has proven itself worthy in the industry thanks to the notable investors that took part in its Series B round, and this will ideally earn it more support in the near future.
Unity Biotech plans to commence pre-clinic human trials in about 12 to 18 months from now, and this is expected to become its greatest milestone. If successful—and the odds are largely in its favor—, then the company will be a pioneer in the field; ideally, many people will be interested in its therapeutics and it will dominate a large portion of the market since its competitors are not nearly as popular or as advanced as it
The Future for Humanity
A bright future for Unity Biotech translates to a bright future for humanity. This is because although science has come a long way in the development of medicine, it has always been limited by aging as age- related conditions such as heart disease and arthritis are considered normal and common. As such, Unity Biotech’s technology will change ‘the norm’ and enable the elderly to live healthy lives free of the pain and complications of such diseases.
This will be a great convenience since old age, although desirable by many, goes hand-in-hand with pain and discomfort as the body’s immune system, muscles, and tissues weaken. Besides, humanity has always been plagued by mortality and many people would give anything to live forever. Although Unity Biotech will not end mortality, at least it will help prolong people’s life spans so that they may enjoy the pleasures of life for a bit longer. If successful, a person’s natural life and health spans may be extended by up to 30%.
However, it will be several years before these benefits are visible since the research, although developed, is still in its early stages for human trials. Expectedly, some complications will arise along the way and it will take time to refine the technology.
Written by Garrett Parker
Read more posts by Garrett Parker