UNITY Biotechnology has now filed for an $85 million initial public offering (IPO); if successful, it will bring the total raised funds to around $300 million and pave the way for the company to move therapies to the clinic.
UNITY is one of a number of biotech companies seeking clinical application of therapies that target the aging processes directly in order to delay, prevent, or reverse age-related diseases. Last year, UNITY secured financial support from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Thiel’s Founders Fund, Baillie Gifford, Venrock, and others, raising $116 million in a series B round.
Recently, the company managed to raise another $55 million in a series C fundraising round, but it is ambitious and has now moved to file an IPO before it moves to human trials in the clinic. It is a bold move, but if UNITY can convince public investors to back its experimental therapies, it will get more funding with which to get critical human trials underway.
UNITY plans to test two candidate drugs: UBX0101, an inhibitor of the MDM2-p53 protein interaction, and UBX1967, an inhibitor of target Bcl-2 apoptosis regulatory proteins. Both drugs are based on the approach of removing harmful, inflammatory senescent cells, which accumulate in tissue as we age, preventing efficient tissue repair and promoting further aging. Both of these candidate drugs are slated to arrive in the clinic next year.
The initial targets for these drugs are osteoarthritis and an ophthalmologic disease, and they are aimed at making these age-related conditions more manageable. The drugs will initially be used in a localized manner, but the company has future plans for systematically administering them to treat diseases caused by aging of organs such as the heart, kidneys, and liver.
Senescent cells produce a cocktail of inflammatory signals that disrupt tissue repair, halt cell division, and drive chronic inflammation, provoking multiple age-related diseases to develop. If the company can successfully remove these problem cells in humans as it has in mice, there is a good chance that its treatments will significantly improve health in the elderly and make age-related diseases easier to treat.
This further demonstrates that once there is a viable product that can be marketed, there is no shortage of funding for rejuvenation therapies. The problem that the field currently faces is the lack of funding for the earlier stages of research; this funding is needed to test scientists’ initially proposed ideas enough to reach the point where investors will invest.
Helping to get therapies to this point is central to the work we do at Lifespan.io; we advocate and support fundraising for basic science so that these important projects see the light of day. If we are going to create a revolution in medicine and shift from a model of simply compensating for age-related decline to a model of directly treating the root causes of aging in order to end age-related diseases, then we need to build a pipeline that goes from initial research all the way to the market.
As this news clearly shows, the problem with the pipeline right now is not with investment but with the initial research and translational research that need our support. We can aid this research as a community, and by working together, we can help bring about medical progress more quickly.