by Buck Institute
February 3, 2016 . Press Release
Buck Institute for Research on Aging Supports Launch of Incubator Company Focused on Age-Related Diseases
Unity Biotechnology First Company to Focus on Translating Science of Senescence to Medicines Designed to Increase Healthspan
San Francisco/Novato, Calif - February 3, 2016 Based on research pioneered by Buck Institute faculty Judith Campisi, Ph.D., and others, Unity Biotechnology has announced its intention to develop medicines to treat age-related diseases and increase healthspan, the amount of time you live in good health. Campisi is a co-founder of Unity, which is occupying incubator space at the Buck.
Unity is initially focusing on cellular senescence, a biological mechanism believed to be a key driver of many age-related diseases. Campisi is internationally recognized for her research in the field. Her lab discovered that senescent cells, which stop dividing in response to stress, secrete deleterious factors that cause tissue damage and lead to chronic inflammation. It is a process that sets up the surrounding tissue for a host of maladies including arthritis, atherosclerosis and late life cancer, among others. Studies from Campisi’s lab and others have shown that periodic clearing of toxic senescent cells preserve tissue function, extend lifespan and delay tumor formation in mouse models of disease.
“After a very long journey it’s extremely gratifying and exciting to have Unity formally launch,” said Campisi, who has studied the mechanisms of cellular senescence for two decades. “Unity has enormous potential to change the way we approach the diseases of aging. Unity’s concept is to treat these maladies as conditions that are preventable or even curable, as opposed to treating symptoms of diseases where the end-states are inevitable and debilitating. As a basic research scientist it is extraordinarily rewarding to see our discoveries move toward clinical trials.”
Unity is backed by initial funding from founding venture investor ARCH Venture Partners, with significant contributions from Venrock, WuXi, Mayo Clinic, Unity’s management team and others.
“Judy is one of the individuals most singly responsible for creating this scientific field. It’s an honor to work with her and the Unity team to translate her insights into medicines,” said Nathaniel David, Ph.D., chief executive officer and co-founder of UNITY Biotechnology. “It’s edifying to see labs around the world studying the implications of cellular senescence, and we look forward to engaging the larger scientific community as we determine the best way to invent new therapies.”
Other co-founders of Unity Biotechnology include Jan M. van Deursen, Ph.D. of Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Daohong Zhou, Ph.D. of University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, both of whom, along with Campisi, have published foundational science on cellular senescence in top scientific journals, including Nature and Nature Medicine.
Unity Biotechnology owns the patents that have arisen from the foundational science done by its cofounders and features an executive team that has collectively moved over 90 therapeutic candidates into human clinical trials and is responsible for the creation of 13 FDA-approved medicines. Dr. David was previously chief scientific officer of Kythera, and has co-founded four other successful biotechnology companies that together raised over $1.5 billion in financing.
Unity set up operations at the Buck Institute in June of 2015 and is sponsoring research in the Campisi lab.
Science is showing that while chronological aging is inevitable, biological aging is malleable. There's a part of it that you can fight, and we are getting closer and closer to winning that fight.
Eric Verdin, MD, Buck Institute President and CEO