07/09

by Buck Institute

First patient treated with drug based on Buck research

Unity Biotechnology, which incubated at the Buck Institute, has treated the first patient in a Phase I clinical trial evaluating a drug to selectively eliminate senescent cells in moderate to severe osteoarthritis of the knee. This is the first ever clinical trial designed to eliminate senescent cells associated with age-related disease. The drug was developed, in large part, based on research from the Campisi lab which focuses on cellular senescence and its role in chronic inflammation.

“This marks a significant and exciting milestone in the history of the Buck,” said Eric Verdin, MD, Buck President and CEO. “We congratulate Unity and Judy Campisi for bringing the first Buck-based treatment from the lab bench to the bedside. We are hopeful this will be the first of many successful trials to demonstrate that the course of age-related disease can be impeded.”

The investigative drug, UBX0101, is designed to selectively eliminate senescent cells in the joints of patients diagnosed with painful osteoarthritis.  Phase I clinical trials are designed to establish drug safety; if successful, Phase II clinical trials will determine whether patients’ conditions improve.

Buck professor Judith Campisi is a scientific co-founder of Unity. “I always hoped that something we did in the lab would be useful,” she said. “But honestly, I never thought it would happen. Being involved in moving a drug into the clinic is among the most rewarding experiences of my entire career.”

Cellular senescence, aging, and senolytic medicines

Cellular senescence is a natural biological state in which a cell permanently halts division in reaction to cellular stress. Senescent cells accumulate with age and secrete as many as 100 different biologically active proteins, including inflammatory factors that disturb the tissue microenvironment. This process sets off a cascade of events that results in functionally aged and/or diseased tissue that appears to underlie a variety of age-related diseases. The collection of secreted proteins is referred to as the Senescence Associated Secretory Phenotype, or SASP. Campisi described the SASP in a highly-regarded study published in Plos Biology in 2008.

Unity is developing therapeutics to extend healthspan by slowing, halting, or reversing diseases of aging.  Their science is based on the belief that eliminating senescent cells will remove SASP factors, addressing a root cause of diseases of aging. Senolytic treatments are designed to selectively remove senescent cells, initially treating conditions such as osteoarthritis, eye diseases and pulmonary diseases.  

The Phase I clinical trial will involve 40 patients and takes place at the Altoona Center for Clinical Research in Duncanville, PA and at the Metroplex Clinical Research Center in Dallas, TX.  Additional information on the clinical trial can be found at www.clinicaltrials.gov.

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

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