BioViva – Gene Therapy to Treat Aging and Beyond
BioViva is an ambitious biotech startup that aims to cure diseases using gene therapy. It is also perhaps the first company to recognize aging as a disease and tackle it at the genetic level.
And in case that wasn’t enough to get you interested, BioViva CEO Liz Parrish states that the company also want to make you “smarter, stronger, faster and more visually accurate”.
New insights in research and medicine point to cellular degeneration or aging as the root cause of most of the chronic disease associated deaths. Treating aging itself, rather than one disease at a time, gives us the opportunity to radically extend healthy lifespan (see figure below; Source: R. A. Miller/University of Michigan). Prof. R. A. Miller’s research shows that if we were to cure cancer today we would only increase lifespan by another 10 or 15 years as people would die from other diseases of aging. While if we were able to slow down aging we could add conservatively add 30 to 40 healthy years to our lives.
As the population ages and most people live longer than 80 years the cost of medical care for the elderly is becoming overwhelming. According to the Whitehouse’s Council of Economic Advisers the health care spending will skyrocket from more than 15% of the national budget today to over 40% of the budget by 2040 (see figure below). These are catastrophic projections for our economy and even an expensive cure to the dis- eases of old age would save us a lot of money. CEO Liz Parrish says, “we can not continue to treat the symptoms of aging such as Cancer, Alzheimer’s and Heart Disease in hopes to solve them independently, they are all symptoms of aging cells, we have thrown enough money at trying to achieve this and it hasn’t worked. It is now time to get to the essence of why these diseases happen and treat the real problem, the aging cell.”
BioViva was formed to cure the acquired and congenital diseases of childhood. It was through looking at these disease models that the eureka moment of curing aging was formed. Progeria is a childhood disease that has all the characteristics of accelerated aging. There are many speculative accelerated aging effects in other childhood diseases as well. BioViva decided to fight the first “old mans war” on aging diseases first to bring cures to kids with this illness. “The information we will gather treating aging as a disease impacts childhood diseases directly,” says Parrish.
But BioViva is not against chronological aging, they say instead that they want you to get older by years. It is good to accumulate wisdom and experience. As a matter of fact they want you to get really old, but without looking old.
BioViva uses gene therapies are targeting the decay of aging cells themselves. Older people have the same cells as young people, the cells just perform differently. BioViva’s technology is changing the amounts of proteins created by the DNA in the cells to make them act as if they were young again. If you don’t look younger then the therapy has not worked. The common signs of aging are wrinkles, muscle wasting, obesity, loss of vision and stamina, and grey hair but if one were to look inside it goes even further and includes plaques in arteries, frail bones and declining organs. Reversing visual aging is an excellent biological marker of success in longevity medicine.
What is Normal?
For most of human existence our average life expectancy rarely went beyond 25 years of age, and up until about 300 years ago this was considered normal. In 1665 up to 90% of deaths occurred due to infectious diseases, while only 1% died of aging. Indeed death from aging was so rare that the great philosopher of the time Montaigne wrote “To die of old age is a death rare, extraordinary, and singular, and, therefore, so much less natural than the others;”
Fast forward to the present time and we see the advent of antibiotics and immunizations were big game changers. Only approximately 3% of the U.S. population died of infectious disease in 2010, it is now deemed an abnormal way to die, it makes headlines. Today most people in industrialized nations die from the diseases attributed to aging cells. The public at large considers dying from aging the normal way to die but the peo- ple behind BioViva say the normal thing for science to do is to change that. BioViva mainly works as a catalyst to help bring therapies developed by many different companies and research institutes to the patients who need them “We bring therapies to pa tients with no other alternative” states Dr. Williams BioViva’s CMO.
What does BioViva Offer?
The entire human genome was decoded in 2003 and this data has been the catalyst for the precision and personalized medicine revolution. We are getting a better understanding about which proteins are responsible for specific biological processes. For example, we are starting to understand the molecular differences between cancer cells and healthy cells. We know much more today about what youthful cells create and what old cells lack. And yet thousands of people are still dying every day that could benefit from our increasing understanding of the genome.
BioViva aims to solve this problem.
BioViva is creating gene therapies that will cure diseases and extend our health and well-being. And BioViva’s strong scientific advisory board is one of the best in longevity research including Bill Andrews, Michael Fossel, George Church and more.
BioViva’s first treatments are aimed at Atherosclerosis and Alzheimer’s. They target youthful cellular behavior to obtain specific results. Gene therapy is a delivered via a shot and is not a pill that you will have to take for a lifetime. It is less polluting to the environment and uses your own cells to create the proteins you need. BioViva wants to create a new level and form of well being, one never seen before, and they suggest establishing a balance that keeps us from aging in the first place.
BioViva is embarking on this adventure with a therapy that is presently in Phase 2 clinical trials in the USA, with a different organization, so it has already passed safety and efficacy tests. But BioViva is using this therapy to treat a different disease, atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is the accumulation of plaques in the arteries. About 80% of the population in the U.S. can be diagnosed with this by the age of 30 years old. Plaques can be found forming in young children. Atherosclerotic plaques lead to heart attacks and heart disease.
Approximately 30% of the population dies of heart problems directly associated with these plaques. If BioViva’s idea is correct, this therapy could knock this disease from the top of national death statistics.
BioViva is also pioneering therapies to help with Alzheimers Disease now. Alzheimers has no cure and is a debilitating disease to both those who have it and those who are caregivers. With their new therapy BioViva hopes to stop the disease right in its tracks, reverse beta amyloid buildup and potentially reverse mental aging. Yes, BioViva is using the only gene therapy that has ever been proven to not only reverse aging in an animal model but to also reverse aging in every cell it has been used on in human cell studies. Every cell.
BioViva and Stevia First have joined forces to treat Diabetes Type 2 and Obesity. Stevia is an agricultural biotechnology company that is enabling dramatically healthier food and nutrition products. Stevia First has worked on mapping geroprotectors for information on how to extend lifespan, information that BioViva can use to fortify its work. “We were already working with a gene therapy that increases insulin sensitivity and helps defeat obesity, so this collaboration made sense,” according to Dr. Williams.
There are several more therapies in the works. Bioviva has a potential patent for Dia- betes Type 1 under review. This could alleviate the use of insulin and its hazards for hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. BioViva will move forward into Immune boosting therapies to treat such diseases such as HIV and autoimmune diseases. Will immune boosting therapies protect against cancer? “It is a real possibility” states Dr William’s.
BioViva believes it is time to become pioneers again. People used to sail the sea think- ing the earth was flat, they climbed a mountain to see what was on the other side. Now, we must pioneer health to ensure our worst fear of our past pioneering efforts doesn’t come true… eventual death by aging.
Liz Parrish, states “If pharmaceuticals were enough, the USA would not have the most medicated people on the planet and a society that is still dying of the very dis- eases that they treat”
Treatment will start in the old and work back to the young with public support and trust. The idea is to have people take gene therapies in advance of disease. Before you show any symptoms, gene therapy will nip the potential time bomb in the bud. You would receive a few injections early in life, instead of having open heart surgery later. You will receive a few shots instead of getting Alzheimer’s or suffering with organ failure. “If pharmaceuticals were enough, the USA would not have the most medicated people on the planet and a society that is still dying of the very diseases that they treat” said Parrish, and with the U.S. taking over 50% of the pharmaceuticals but being only 5% of the worlds population the possible impact of gene therapies is staggering.
Enhancement or preventative medicine?
The long term goal of the company is to have a real preventive and regenerative medicine regime that works for the world at large.
But BioViva knows that there will be a big debate if this is in fact enhancement or preventative medicine. Antibiotics were the first regenerative medicine, meaning taking them returned you to a state of health. Immunizations were our first preventative medicine, meaning you did not get the illness if inoculated properly against it in the first place. Gene therapy has the ability to be both regenerative and preventative; it can restore healthy function and keep you from getting sick to begin with too.
In 1600, both antibiotics and immunizations would have appeared to be biological enhancement, but today they are commonplace, widely accepted and considered normal. But Hollywood hype has been misleading the public about the negative potential of genetic sciences.
BioViva believes people should have a right to change and repair their genome and they feel that people in the near future will harness this technology to improve their lives. There has been a lot of debate around this science but until now the ability to access these tools has not been offered. And we agree with CEO Liz Parrish when she says, “I think that is a good thing.”