GenetikSignal signs exclusive licensing agreement with UW for anti-aging biotechnology

What if you could not only slow down the aging process, but delay the onset and progression of age-related disease at the same time?

That’s the idea behind the research of Matt Kaeberlein, University of Washington associate professor of pathology and a prominent scientist in the field of aging research. Now, GenetikSignal, Inc., a biotech startup based in Maryland, has entered into an exclusive licensing agreement with UW for their patented technology on anti-aging methods based on Kaeberlein’s findings.

The new screening technology involves inhibiting a protein known as mTOR (mechanistic target of rapamycin), which controls cell growth – including cancer progression and aging. Kaeberlein has studied the genetic and molecular processes that determine how and why animals age and has shown that a particular nutrient response pathway defined by mTOR can be targeted to slow aging and reduce age-related disease.

“The mTOR signaling network is well known in the emerging cancer therapeutics arena,” explained GenetikSignal’s CEO, Gina Devasahayam, “but this network can be harnessed for discovery of new small molecule entities for skin care and nutrition because of the role of mTOR in skin aging, chemoprevention and caloric restriction.”

Many experts in the biology of aging believe that pharmacological interventions to slow aging are a matter of ‘when’ rather than ‘if.’ A leading target for such interventions is the mTOR nutrient response pathway. Work in the Kaeberlein lab has provided evidence that mTOR is a key regulator of metabolism in animals, and is particularly important for achieving the health benefits of a low calorie diet.

Matt Kaberlein, UW associate professor of pathology

Matt Kaeberlein, UW associate professor of pathology

GenetikSignal uses high throughput screening methods that are yeast-based and are biologically representative of Kaeberlein’s aging research. High-throughput screening allows researchers to quickly conduct millions of chemical, genetic or pharmacological tests to rapidly identify active compounds, antibodies or genes which regulate — or adjust — a particular biomolecular pathway. The results provide starting points for drug design and for understanding the interaction or role of a particular biochemical process in biology.

“By using yeast as the initial screening platform, we can directly identify novel compounds that promote healthy aging in a well-characterized biological system,” Kaeberlein said.

By inhibiting the mTOR pathway, lifespan in model organisms is extended and protected from a growing list of age-related pathologies. Characterized inhibitors of this pathway are already clinically approved, and others are under development. Drugs that target the mTOR pathway could one day become widely used to slow aging and reduce age-related pathologies in humans, Kaeberlein said.

Devasahayam said GenetikSignal will continue to collaborate closely with the Kaeberlein lab at UW as the company develops its core market in the emerging anti-aging consumer market for discovery and development of active ingredients in cosmetics and foods. Future prospects for this technology include discovery of drugs for age-related diseases in which the mTOR pathway is deregulated, such as cancer, diabetes, obesity and neurodegenerative diseases, for which GenetikSignal will seek partnerships with major biotech and pharmaceutical companies.