Elizabeth Parrish, CEO of Bioviva USA Inc., became the first human on record to be successfully rejuvenated by gene therapy, after receiving two of her company’s experimental gene therapies. Designed to target key hallmarks and consequences of the aging process, the first of these treatments was a telomerase inducing therapy capable of counteracting telomere attrition. The second was a prospective treatment for sarcopenia, consisting of a myostatin inhibitor previously proven in animals to promote and protect muscle maintenance. Telomeres are protective strands of DNA capping the ends of every chromosome that progressively wear down as cells divide, eventually impairing healthy tissue replenishment and producing an increasing senescent cell burden. Telomere shortening is widely believed to be one of the major causes of aging and disease, and research on animals has previously demonstrated the rejuvenative effects of counteracting this decline. Parrish’s white blood cell telomeres have now been analysed and independently verified, and as of 2016 have been extended by a length equivalent to 20 years of normal aging.
Spurred on by these promising results, BioViva aims to patent these therapies. On the 20th of April 2016 Parrish filed a patent application describing “a method of treating or preventing age-related disorders in a subject by administering to the subject a therapeutically effective amount of a human Telomerase Reverse Transcriptase (hTERT) gene in combination with a Follistatin gene.” We have recently been notified that the patent is pending review.
“There are no assumptions or hypotheses attached to these findings.” Parrish said, commenting on her decision. “I’m a technologist and entrepreneur, and we achieved the intended results.
There are many reasons to patent: to lock rival companies out of a technology and to create revenue from licensing, but another is to ensure access to technologies by precluding rivals from monopolising.
“BioViva originally set out to pioneer affordable gene therapies and this is exactly what we intend to do with this patent”, adds Parrish, “Aging is incurring crippling financial burden in both the developed and developing world. We need, and have a mandate to pursue technologies that will alleviate human suffering as soon as they become available. The latest generation of cell and genetic therapies promises a better future by treating age-related disease where it begins: the cell. By directly editing a patient’s genome, gene therapy has the potential to transform medicine. We cannot continue to treat symptoms of aging such as Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular disease in isolation. This approach has netted zero cures.”
Following Parrish’s reception of her company’s novel gene therapy, BioViva has received global interest from both the scientific and investment communities. In April 2016, BioViva became a portfolio company of Deep Knowledge Life Sciences (DKLS), a London-based investment fund that aims to accelerate the development of biotechnologies for healthy longevity.