(1) Juvenescence’s Greg Bailey on transformative scientific opportunities, immuno-resilience, modifying aging and funding.
Continuing our series of interviews with our Advisory Panel members, we spoke to Greg Bailey, CEO of biopharmaceutical company Juvenescence, who brought us up-to-speed on the company’s fundraise and his very busy year so far. Juvenescence are really packing a lot in:
- On-track to launch first product in the end of September that is geroprotective, neuroprotective and cardioprotective;
- Second product signed to Juvenescence Life which increases autophagy; hopefully launching next year;
- Plans in place to have two to four drugs in the clinic next year;
- On-track to try and undertake thymus replacement using the lymph nodes over the next few years;
- AgeX is putting together a comprehensive plan to demonstrate that they can regenerate tissue;
- Currently raising $150m Series C which is hopefully a prelude to an IPO.
Longevity.Technology: Juvenescence seems to be moving from success to success; we started by asking Greg to bring us up-to-speed on news so far.
Greg Bailey: Well, the good news is that we closed morphoceuticals [spontaneous tissue regeneration therapy] this year; the bad news is that they need access to their labs. So COVID has slowed the process on our development of spontaneous regeneration of a limb or an organ using bioelectrics – but we have an amazing team working on this and hopefully will be back in the lab soon.
We recently closed a joint venture with a company called G3, and the new company is called Juvenomics. Basically they have 2500 people’s complete omics data – proteome, genome, etc., and they have another 4000 patients that they have partial omics data on. We have the use of all that data to try and generate new drugs and drug combinations for anti-aging and modifying aging. So it’s really exciting to get access to that data, and our extraordinary machine learning team, which has made great strides on the data science side, will be the group that will use this data to create drugs, drug combinations and repurpose drugs.
We brought in Yoshua Bengio, who won the Turing Award in 2018, so one of the top machine learning scientists in the world. Also, Will Hamilton, he is one of the top five or six scientists in the world in this area. Graph convolutional networks are what drives Pinterest and Twitter, to give you an idea of how important it is. Nobody has been using it in pharmaceuticals or drug discovery, and it’s also one of the foundational machine learnings for Google DeepMinds.
We have put together an extraordinary team, which is very much the Juvenesence model: find an opportunity and build an amazing management team. Considering we started this opportunity – it’s called Relation – in August last year, to have come so far already is amazing.
The interesting thing is that we put together, internally, an immuno-resilience team. Immuno-senescence is the aging immune system, but we decided to call it immuno-resilience, because we want to increase and boost immunity. COVID-19 is fundamentally a disease of aging – people are dying. So, how do we boost immunity?
The data we get from them is going to be fantastic for our immuno-resilience team to work forward on. A number of our immuno-resilience team members are on the task force for the UK Government resilience. So, you know, we’re really trying to position ourselves both for the good of the world, and to create sustainable, exciting products, hopefully, inexpensive products and boost immunity.
Longevity.Technology: That’s very exciting! Any other products coming out?
Greg Bailey: We are on track to launch our first product in the end of September, Metabolic Switch; it is a ketone ester that in mammals is geroprotective, neuroprotective and cardioprotective. I couldn’t be more excited about that launch! And it should be relatively affordable, if you have a monthly subscription it’s quite reasonable.
We signed our second product for Juvenescence Life, our non-RX division. This a product that increases autophagy. It will improve cognition, boost your immunity, help your bones, your cardiac health, your skin, hair … So I’m really excited about adding that one; hopefully we will be able to launch next year (and hopefully is the operative word there), which would be great news. Also in the hopeful category, we should sign two more deals over the next four weeks for Juvenesence Life and that will really round-out our product portfolio so that we are on track to launch a product every year for the next four years.
More importantly, we’ll be able to extend the product lines. Blueberry skins are well known to potentially have an effect on slowing cognitive impairment, so, wouldn’t it be great to have Metabolic Switch, but you’d also add items like blueberry which obviously you can’t hold IP on, and put them into a product that you know where there are synergies – the IP product, and the non IP product. Add in a cardiac treatment, and so on – one pill, but you don’t have to go chasing blueberry skins, you don’t have to go chasing sulforaphane from broccoli, it would all be in one pill.
Longevity.Technology: And how about research?
Greg Bailey: Our RX Division continues to move forward; it looks like we’re going to have two to four drugs in the clinic next year and we are starting human trials for obesity, cachexia and immuno-metabolism, fibrosis, as well as combinations of those products – when products move into trials, that’s a time I find really exciting. In our regeneration division, LyGenesis starts its phase 1/2A clinic, to be able to regenerate a liver using lymph nodes, and that clinical starts this year.
We are on track to try and undertake thymus replacement using the lymph nodes, over the next few years. This is very exciting and would obviously be a great step forward for immuno-resilience, since it involutes at 3% a year every year after you turn 20. This is possibly why, unfortunately, 70 or 80-year-olds are dying from COVID-19.
We continue to press forward with tissue regeneration. Even though morphoceuticals surrogates stalled because they can’t get into the lab, our other company AgeX is putting together a comprehensive plan to initiate proof of concept trials in animals to demonstrate that they can regenerate tissue as well. AgeX continues to sign exciting licences, with a Japanese pharmaceutical company among others, which is a licence to use our technology to protect cells from the immune system.
We have another contract with UC Irvine that we signed in January; this is our neural stem cell research programme for Huntington’s Disease and other neurological disorders and we hope to be in human trials with our cell lines in approximately 18 months.
Longevity.Technology: When we spoke last we understood that you were fundraising – how’s that going?
Greg Bailey: We’re going out to raise $150m in our C round, which hopefully will be a prelude to an IPO, and, of course, we’re talking to banks, to make sure that we have a balanced syndicate for that initiative. So all in all, it’s been a little busy!
There’s still this wild discrepancy between how much money is made available to social apps and media apps and one of the most powerful transformative scientific opportunities that humanity has ever had to modify aging. I think it’s like 10 times, maybe 20 times discrepancy in capital available from VCs, so, hopefully, the VCs and the sophisticated investors will understand that work to modify aging is happening NOW, not in 10 years’ time. We’re going to launch a product this year, which is going to have true scientific credentials. You know as far as its ability to modify aging, that’s clearly a big issue for us to try to bring that awareness.
Happily, all the banks get it! The banks are way ahead of the investors; Citibank says it’s one of the 10 most disruptive technologies for the next decade. Bank of America says that it’s going to be a half a trillion dollar industry in five years.
There’s an enormous number of very sophisticated investors who, if you call them, and they’re really smart people, will say: “I don’t do biotech, I just don’t get biotech, I don’t have any expertise in it, but I understand a social app.”
I think that that’s part of the equation, and it’s an education process that I confront when I’m talking to investors. If Bank of America’s even half-right, it’s a quarter of a trillion dollars industry, so I need to convince people that the science is happening now, and how big thematic investing it is, you can’t not be invested in this area!
This is going to be one of the greatest opportunities – a 100 billion dollar company from zero, and they’ll probably be a couple of them.
When I was talking to various banks, most of them understand the opportunities, but they’ve been surprised when I showed them what we’re doing and how far along we are. At one bank, even their head of healthcare was shocked.
If Juvenescence does go public, it’s so important that we position ourselves properly; if we make our investors a lot of money, and the stock goes up, that will transform this whole sector – once people see one flotation that’s worked I think that will opens the floodgates. Biotech is a game of odds; try ten products, be right on two, and you’ve done brilliantly well.
(2) Juvenesence’s Greg Bailey on democratising healthcare, paradigm shifts and disruptive technologies.
In part two we look at educating investors, personalising healthcare and investor preference; a few highlights:
- The patient population for tackling aging is 7.8 billion – a completely different scale of operation with potentially massive returns;
- Launch of new division JuvYou later this year which will provide web and app-based personalised healthcare recommendations;
- Banks and retail investors will be the drivers behind Longevity investment.
Longevity.Technology: Are there other issues that you need to educate investors about, or are they becoming better informed as time goes on?
Greg Bailey: It’s going in the right direction; there’s already a difference response from when I talked to people in March compared with now. Maybe I’m getting better at telling the story, or maybe the company is moving along, and obviously the fact that biotech is on fire is certainly very helpful.
However, I think that what still needs an enormous amount of education about is the scale of things. Tackling aging is very different from manufacturing a drug for breast cancer, cardiac disease, or inflammatory bowel disease. The population for breast cancer in Europe is probably in the 400,000s, but 400 million Europeans are getting older – it’s just completely different metrics.
One of my sayings that my team mocks about, is that if we had a drug that cost $0.05 to manufacture, that would increase your lifespan by 10 years, we’d charge $1. A large percentage of the global population can afford $1 a day, potentially over a billion people. That’s one billion people paying $1 a day – at $365 billion a year, we don’t need to charge $10,000 for treatment. Again, completely different metrics and that’s what people need to understand.
Longevity.Technology: Is healthcare becoming more personalised?
Greg Bailey: We’re going to launch a division called JuvYou this year. When we launch our ketone product Metabolic Switch, JuvYou will allow you input your ketones, and give you cogent recommendations on how and what time is best to take the product. You can also monitor your blood sugar with the same device, and it will make recommendations based on those readings. We want to create that relationship with our customers: if you give us your metrics, we will take that trust very seriously; we’re not going to sell it on to advertisers, or anything like that. In addition, at the press of the button, we’ll send all that biometric data to your physician; you hit another button, we’ll delete it.
We need to build trust, and trust will also build compliance for our drugs. Giving us your ketone level will reinforce that we are actually doing what we say we are doing – you’ll see your ketones drop as the ketosis works. Give us your blood sugar levels, and we can give you an enormous number of recommendations for nothing because we can use our machine learning. Give me your VO2 max [maximum oxygen uptake] and we can make recommendations about exercise, both about how often and the type of exercise you should be doing.
I think we will be the first biotech company that I’m aware of that will have a direct relationship with our patients and consumers in this way. And that to me is profound – interacting with them and making healthy recommendations. This will be an incredibly powerful development, and we’re doing it to be a trusted ally for our customers, and to help them live healthy longer lives.
It’s the democratisation of healthcare; just as democracy is one person, one vote, so access to healthcare data would be available to everyone, from a top professor at Oxford University, to someone on a smartphone in Mumbai. To me, that’s a very big deal – people trusting us with their information and we’ll try to help them have a healthier life. The more we learn, the better products we can make for them and for everyone.
We would always recommend a competitor’s drug, if that’s what the results suggest. We wouldn’t be supplanting doctors, either, but encouraging people to consult their doctor if that is what our information indicates. That is the relationship we’ll be building and I think it changes the world; to have that level of sophistication in your phone will be amazing. We’ll start off web-based and then we’ll be looking to add an app – it’s a new paradigm in healthcare.
Then healthcare will all be about prevention and that’s, to me, incredibly disruptive. Instead of trying to treat your heart disease or diabetes, we’ll try to prevent you from ever getting heart disease or diabetes. We’ve talked about the physical manifestations – slowing cellular aging, regenerating a limb – but there are also the psychological issues and that will be the next step after we sort out the physical issues.
Longevity.Technology: Most investors appear to prefer seed-to-early-stage investing; have you found this to be the case in your networks?
This is about talking to the banks again; this is not going to be biotech investors, because they’ll think it’s early stage and worth nothing. They don’t understand that the patient population is 7.8 billion people. So, it’s going to be thematic investors, ESG people [Environmental, Social & Governance], sustainable, environmental investors; it’s going to be funds who understand the diversity of having non-RX, RX and machine learning.
It’s a retail event, so crowd-funding has an opportunity to do well. Most people are petrified of biotech, but it’s no different from mining: put some money in, if you’re lucky you find gold; if you’re not lucky, you don’t. The share price either goes up if you found gold, or drops if you didn’t. If we have a clinical trial, and it’s run by smart, educated people, then it has a better-than-average chance of it being positive and, if it’s right, there’s a 10x return; historically, this is what we saw at Medivation and Biohaven, predecessor companies with which I’ve been involved.