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Chicago Based Biotech Startup Targeting Zombie Cells

2 months, 3 weeks ago

3147  0
Posted on Apr 09, 2020, 1 p.m.

SIWA Therapeutics is focused on anti-aging, and the biotech will be developing a drug that aims to cure a variety of aging related diseases by targeting senescent zombie cells which stop dividing and repairing tissues to accumulate and feed tumor growth as well as interfere with the body’s natural ability to repair itself. 

The company has discovered a monoclonal antibody called SIWA 318H that selectively binds to and removes senescent and cancer cells; initially the company will focus on cancer therapy, more specifically pancreatic cancer to start with but the biotech believes that SIWA 318H has the potential to possibly become the first comprehensive cancer therapy to reduce both cancer cells as well as the zombie cells that feed tumor growth. 

Although currently only in preclinical stages the company hopes to be able to tackle a range of different types of cancers as well as other aging related diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, ALS, Parkinson’s disease, and breast cancer. 

“We believe we can help just about everyone achieve maximum human lifespan,” said Lewis Gruber, the biotech entrepreneur, co-founder and chief scientific officer of SIWA Therapeutics who believes that aging is not simply an inevitable reality but rather a problem to be solved. 

Founded in 2006 SIWA has raised $8 million in outside capital and joins the handful of other biotechs pioneering anti-aging drugs such as Unity Biotechnology based in San Francisco which is also targeting senescence and has raised over $300 million in funding backed by Peter Thiel and Jeff Bezos focused on severe osteoarthritis and aging related diseases of the lungs and eyes. Another Bay Area anti-aging startup botech called Alkahest is focussed on combating age related diseases such as dementia, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. All of these companies gained mention in MIT Technology Review’s 10 Breakthrough Technologies of 2020 on the list of Anti-Aging Drugs category of which SIWA was named a “key player”.

“Biologists are making great progress in identifying some of the processes involved in aging, such as senescence,” David Rotman, the editor at large of the MIT Technology Review, said in a statement. “Targeting these processes is a promising new way to treat the many diseases associated with aging, and now we’re starting to see encouraging results using these approaches.”

According to SIWA their therapy was found to increase muscle mass in aging mice, as well as inhibit tumor metastasis in triple negative metastatic breast cancer with no observed increase in tumor growth compared to controls. The company plans to file their first drug application with the FDA within the next 12-15 months and begin clinical trials within a year. Should all go as planned there could be a drug available to the public within the next 5-10 years.

“I worked on this drug in part for personal interest,” he said. “I intend to take our drug myself when it’s available. I want it to keep me healthy well beyond what’s normally considered old age and into a longer lifespan,” said Gruber.

“Unlike some companies in our field in Silicon Valley who have hundreds of millions, we’ve done everything very economically,” he said. “That’s somewhat of a hallmark of the biotech companies I’ve worked with before.”

“I believe we can solve aging broadly,” he said. “Some observers of the aging industry estimate that there are 100,000 people who die of aging-related diseases (a day). I feel personally bad we don’t have our drug available to help as many of those as we can. We may not be able to help every one of them, but certainly a lot of them could be helped by us or another (anti-aging company).”

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