2014 was a year to remember. With a $10,000 Methuselah Prize awarded to Dr. Huber Warner of the National Institute on Aging’s Interventions Testing Program, the first six teams officially announced for the New Organ Liver Prize, and our first Organovo 3D printer awarded to the Yale School of Medicine, we’ve certainly been keeping busy.
Thanks to all of you, and especially to the passionate support of our many generous donors, we’re also looking forward to an impactful 2015. We’re still gathering more teams for the Liver Prize, exploring a possible New Organ Vasculature Challenge with federal agency partners, looking forward to the inaugural Organ Banking Summit in February, and much more.
We closed out last year by taking part in a successful $150,000 fundraiser for the SENS Research Foundation, and we’re ringing in the new one with a founding investment in Oisin Biotechnology (see below). We also look forward to sharing more illuminating conversations with you from around the world of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine on our blog, “The Bristlecone.” (In case you missed it, our most recent dialogue, with David Williams of TERMIS and the Wake Forest Institute of Regenerative Medicine, was a fascinating three-part excursion (part 1, part 2, part 3) through a wide range of key issues.)
Read on for more Methuselah news from the last quarter of 2014, and please don’t hesitate to stay in touch.
Warm wishes for a prosperous year ahead,
BACKING OISIN BIOTECHNOLOGY
The Methuselah Foundation has become a founding investor in Oisin Biotechnology, Inc, an early-stage company that aims to provide targeted biological solutions to degenerative aging conditions. We are also now represented on Oisin’s Board of Directors.
Initial research and development at Oisin will focus on controlled removal of senescent cells that underlie certain degenerative aging conditions. Both proprietary treatment protocols as well as proprietary methods for delivery of biologics to affected cells will be employed. Oisin is currently performing in vitro studies to confirm the expected mode of action of its therapy.
“We invested in Oisin,” Methuselah CEO Dave Gobel explained, “because of the promise of their highly targeted approach to removing senescent cells without causing collateral damage or side effects. To put it more colloquially, I like to think of this as ‘getting the crud out’—one of our key themes at Methuselah.”
We hope this founding investment will enable Oisin to establish proof of principle (does it work in vitro or not?). If it does work, we believe that Oisin will become extremely important in the field of longevity science—and provide us with a mission-aligned solution that is industrializable by harnessing infotech, biotech, and the body’s own systems. We’ll keep you posted.
NEW FEDERAL GRANT PROGRAMS FOR ORGAN CRYOBANKING
We’re excited to announce that the Organ Preservation Alliance, one of New Organ’s partner organizations, has informed the development of three new federal grant programs by the Department of Defense targeting complex tissue and organ cryobanking for transplantation.
These three unique but complimentary “Small Business Innovation Research” (SBIR) grants, the first of their kind, will launch on January 15, 2015. Together, they could fund research for 20 or more U.S. teams, with strong candidates potentially receiving $3-$3.5 million across phase one and phase two awards.
Congratulations to the Organ Preservation Alliance for its critical role in this landmark moment for the undervalued field of cryopreservation.
BOWHEAD WHALE STUDY PUBLISHED
We’ve seen great news coverage recently of the bowhead whale research we funded at the University of Liverpool, and the full paper by Dr. Joao Pedro de Magelhaes and his team is being published in the journal Cell Reports.
According to Magelhaes, “The bowhead whale is the longest-lived mammal, possibly capable of living over 200 years. Thanks to generous support from the Methuselah Foundation, we sequenced the bowhead genome and transcriptome and performed a comparative analysis with other cetaceans and mammals. We found that changes in bowhead genes related to cell cycle, DNA repair, cancer, and ageing could all be biologically relevant.”
Next up for Magelhaes? Sequencing the genes of the Capuchin monkey….
EXPLORING c60oo AND CANCER GROWTH
Ichor Therapeutics, Inc. (LaFayette, NY), an exciting pre-clinical biotechnology company funded in part by Methuselah donors, is preparing to commence pilot studies to investigate the effects of c60oo administration on human cancer proliferation in vivo.
It has been theorized that c60oo may be a potent inhibitor of primary tumor growth or metastasis. Data about human leukemia growth rates in the presence and absence of c60oo is expected to pave the way for additional studies of c60oo’s effects on a variety of tumor models.
“We are grateful to the Methuselah Foundation,” Ichor CEO Kelsey Moody said recently, “for providing much of the necessary funding for this project, without which this important research could not be completed.”
Thanks, Kelsey. We look forward to seeing your results!
Great news! Today, we’re announcing the first six teams to officially compete for the New Organ Liver Prize. These teams represent scientists from Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital, Northwick Park Institute for Medical Research, University College of London, University of Florida, University of Oxford, University of Pittsburgh, and Yokohama City University, and are being led by:
Dr. Tahera Ansari (Team Hepavive): Pursuing the ‘decell-recell’ approach to bioengineering a liver.
Dr. Stephen Badylak (Team Badylak): A pioneer in biologic scaffolds using extracellular matrix.
Dr. Eric Lagasse (Team Ectogenesis): Grew mini-livers inside the lymph nodes of mice with liver disease.
Dr. Bryon Petersen (Team Petersen): An authority on the role of hepatic stem cells in liver pathology.
Dr. Takanori Takebe (Team Organ Creative): Created tiny ‘liver buds’ that grew and functioned in mice.
Dr. Basak Uygun (Team HepaTx): First proof-of-principle transplantation of engineered liver grafts.
For full bios, please visit the team page at our website. Additional teams are also under review and will be announced in a future update.
Good luck to all!
GROWING THE NEW ORGAN ALLIANCE
On July 29th, New Organ facilitated a meeting hosted by the Department of Health and Human Services that brought together 10 federal agencies and other stakeholders to explore current efforts in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine (TERM) and the role that incentivized innovation can play in advancing specific challenge targets.
We’ve also submitted a proposal for a workshop entitled “Building a TERM Roadmap for Organ Disease” to several potential convening partners. The outline proposes a gathering of 50 scientific, government, industry, and philanthropic leaders committed to advancing biomedical engineering and regenerative medicine breakthrough technologies to address organ disease. Participants will define key challenges at the science and system level; identify enabling technologies and quantitative milestones that can be used to inform future research efforts and challenge prize targets; and examine tools and innovation models that can be applied to advance specific goals. Please contact us if you’re interested in supporting this effort.
New Organ’s close collaboration with the Organ Preservation Alliance (OPA) continues. OPA has proposed key ideas and facilitated input for several Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer proposals on tissue and organ cryopreservation, currently under review. OPA also secured basic underwriting for the first global “Grand Challenges in Organ Banking” Summit, to be held in Palo Alto, CA in February of 2015. They’ve also updated draft rules for the proposed Organ Banking Prize: a challenge competition to demonstrate long-term storage of a solid organ and subsequent transplantation into a human or large animal.
Finally, New Organ is considering the possibility of a new Vasculature Prize to stimulate the vascularization of thick, functional tissue. Details on this effort, which is currently being explored in coordination with a federal agency, will be forthcoming as discussions progress.
BOWHEAD WHALE REPORT
Our bowhead whale DNA sequencing project, funded by Methuselah donors and led by Dr. Joao Pedro de Magelhaes at the University of Liverpool, has now been completed. Thank you for your generous support of this important work.
To facilitate further research, Dr. de Magelhaes’ team eventually plans to make their data available online. Here’s the abstract from their manuscript, currently in submission:
“The bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus) is estimated to live over 200 years and is possibly the longest-living mammal. These animals should possess protective molecular adaptations relevant to age-related diseases, particularly cancer. Here we report the sequencing and comparative analysis of the bowhead whale genome, accompanied by two individual transcriptomes. Our analysis identified genes under positive selection and several bowhead-specific mutations in genes known to play a role in cancer and ageing. In addition, we identified instances of gene gain and loss with potential phenotypic effects, including in genes associated with DNA repair, cell cycle regulation, cancer and ageing. Our results open new perspectives concerning the evolution of mammalian longevity and provide insights regarding possible players involved in adaptive genetic changes conferring cancer resistance. We also found potentially relevant changes in genes related to thermoregulation, sensory perception, dietary adaptations, and immune response, among other relevant bowhead adaptations.”
We’re excited to report that we recently funded a new study exploring the effects of c60, a potent antioxidant, on human cancer proliferation. This research is being conducted by Ichor Therapeutics, Inc., a pre-clinical biotechnology company focused on age-related pathologies and based in Syracuse, NY. The full press release is available here.
Construction is now complete on phase one of our beautiful monument to the Methuselah 300, located on the Caribbean island of St. Thomas. Stay tuned for more details on this—we’re solidifying plans to officially dedicate the monument and open it to the public in February of 2015, and we’ll be sharing more with you this fall.
If you haven’t seen our new blog yet, please check it out and let us know what you think. Now called “The Bristlecone” and fully integrated into our main website, it has continued to feature interviews with leading scientists and innovators in regenerative medicine, including:
Dr. Robert Langer of MIT: On Taking Risks and Thinking Big.
David Green of Harvard Apparatus Regenerative Technology: Regenerating Organs for Transplant.
Dr. Jennifer Elisseeff of the Translational Tissue Engineering Center at Johns Hopkins: Connecting the Lab and the Clinic.
Up next on the blog will be an interview with Dr. Basak Uygun of the Center for Engineering in Medicine at Harvard Medical School, one of our six prize team leaders. Look out for it later this week.
As always, best of luck in your own endeavors, and please don’t hesitate to stay in touch.
With warm regards,
We hope you’ve been having a productive and satisfying 2014.
If you haven’t seen it yet, definitely visit our new Methuselah Foundation blog and let us know what you think. We’ve been publishing weekly posts, including a primer on the science of organ regeneration and a regenerative medicine news roundup from around the web during April and May.
We’ve also posted several recent interviews there, with Dr. Alan Russell of Carnegie Mellon, Dr. Takanori Takebe of Yokohama City University, Dr. Eric Lagasse of the University of Pittsburgh, and Brock Reeve of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute. In the weeks ahead, look out for part 2 of the Brock Reeve piece, a new interview with MIT’s Dr. Robert Langer, and more.
CONGRATULATIONS TO DR. HUBER WARNER
On May 30th, at the 43rd Annual Meeting of the American Aging Association in San Antonio, Texas, we awarded a $10,000 Methuselah Prize to Dr. Huber Warner for founding the National Institute on Aging’s Intervention Testing Program (ITP), a “multi-institutional study investigating treatments with the potential to extend lifespan and delay disease and dysfunction in mice.” Dr. Warner is a former program director for the NIA Biology of Aging Program and former Associate Dean of Research for the College of Biological Sciences at the University of Minnesota.
Kevin Perrott, Huber Warner, and Randy Strong at the 43rd Annual Meeting of the American Aging Association
According to Kevin Perrott, Executive Director of the Methuselah Prize, “The vision Dr. Warner showed, and his persistence over years of resistance to establish the ITP, is truly worthy of recognition. This program is going to provide not only potential near-term interventions in the aging process, but hard data to support claims of health benefits in a statistically significant manner. Science needs solid foundations on which to base further investigations, and the ITP provides the highest level of confidence yet established.”
“I saw lots of papers from grantees of the NIA about slowing down aging and extending lifespan,” said Dr. Warner, “but they were rarely backed up and given credibility through testing. Research over the last 25 years has been characterized by great success in identifying genes that play some role in extending the late-life health and longevity of several useful animal models of aging, such as yeast, fruit flies, and mice. The next challenging step is to demonstrate how this information might be used to increase the health of older members of our human populations around the world as they age.”
With New Organ, we’ve been busy growing our partner alliance, garnering endorsements (for example, from the Founding Fellows of the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine International Society), defining criteria for our upcoming heart prize, and working toward an official announcement of our first group of teams participating in the liver prize. We’ve had good initial interest, with five teams committed so far, and we’re currently in dialogue with many more.
The pre-release construction phase of our beautiful marble and granite monument installation in the U.S. Virgin Islands, to honor all of the major donors who are part of the Methuselah 300, will be completed by August. We’ve got some cool surprises in store, and our goal is to formally dedicate the monument in the first quarter of 2015, during the peak tourist season—with as many of you in attendance as are able!
Finally, don’t miss the SENS Research Foundation’s upcoming Rejuvenation Biotechnology Conference, taking place on August 21-23 in Santa Clara, CA. All the details are here.
And as always, please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions, comments, and feedback.
Since launching the New Organ Liver Prize at last year’s World Stem Cell Summit (WSCS), we’ve been hard at work growing the New Organ Alliance and reaching out to potential prize teams. We now have four labs lined up to participate in the prize challenge, with more on the way.
In case you missed it, here’s Methuselah CEO Dave Gobel’s announcement speech at WSCS. “It seems to me species insanity,” he says, describing the origins of New Organ, “that we would spend $200,000+ to restore a car like a Shelby Cobra, and yet all that car’s creator Carroll Shelby could get were junkyard parts. His heart came from a dead person—it wasn’t new. website load testing tool . His kidney came from his wonderful son, but it wasn’t new. And it didn’t fit. None of these parts fit.”
Right now, we’re also developing the next prize in the New Organ series, which we hope to announce later this year. This time, we’re focusing on the heart.
Coming up in May, at the World Stem Cells Regenerative Medicine Congress in London, we’ll be introducing New Organ to the European audience at one of the world’s leading events for cell therapy and regenerative medicine.
In the meantime, we’re excited to be launching this new blog to keep you more connected to many different aspects of our work as it unfolds in real time. Look out this month for new interviews with several New Organ advisors and participants, including Dr. Alan Russell of Carnegie Mellon and Dr. Takanori Takebe of Yokohama City University.
The Methuselah Team
Visit us at mfoundation.org