Part 2 – Elizabeth Parrish
By Mark Sackler
It was about ten years ago that I had a telling argument with a work colleague in the pharmaceutical industry. I was talking about the then rather nascent field of research into reversing human aging, and the rather strong likelihood that it might soon emerge from the fringes and become mainstream.
He was horrified. He abhorred the idea, and for all the usual reasons. Aging is natural. The world is over-populated. We need youthful reinvigoration of humanity. We lack the resources. Yada yada yada.
I look him straight in the eye and said, “then why are you wasting your time working in the pharmaceutical industry?”
“Huh?” He didn’t get my meaning.
“At least 80% of what we do in this industry,” I reminded him, “is treat the diseases of aging. But we treat the symptoms, we don’t cure them. Because we don’t treat the underlying cause of the overwhelming majority of incidences of cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, orthopedic frailty, etc. Aging is the cause, and if we reverse aging, we cure those diseases or prevent them altogether.”
He had no answer for that; but it seems he still just didn’t get it.
Someone who does get it, on the other hand, is Elizabeth Parrish, the CEO of Bioviva. She’s a gerontology research entrepreneur who’s willing to put her money—and her own body—where her mouth is. She gained notoriety about two years ago, when it was revealed that she had traveled to Columbia—the country, not the university—to have two of her company’s experimental gene therapies administered to herself. These entailed injections of a myostatin inhibitor and a telomerase gene therapy. The former blocks a protein that inhibits muscle growth. The latter extends the length of telomeres in one’s genes—these are the tips of the DNA that shorten with each cell division and eventually lead to cell senescence and death.
So, did this make her younger? Maybe in some regards. But even Parrish admits there are more than just these two factors involved in aging. And while no ill effects have yet been detected more than two years on, it might take decades to determine ultimate efficacy. People are not laboratory rats—we live 30 to 50 times longer.
So how, exactly, does she assess things right now, and how will Bioviva proceed? I spoke with her recently to ask these and related questions:
Mark Sackler It’s been a little over two years since you’ve had the work done was. And on your website, I don’t see an update more recent than March of last year. So, what’s the prognosis at this point? How are you faring? Any change in status? Still feeling good? Is it still steady state or is there something new to report?
Liz Parrish We don’t see things changing, we see things sticking towards the positive side. We have since then done some cancer testing to ensure that I don’t have cancer in my body. I’m at a very low risk of cancer, which is fantastic. You know, with gene therapy, the beauty of it is what we’re looking to create is just the protein in the cell that makes you healthier, so we don’t expect to see side effects like we do with pharmaceutical drugs where you ingest a pill and it might have some off-target effects of damaging your kidneys or your liver or something like that. It’s all side effects that pharmaceutical drugs give you. Some of them are positive and many of them may be negative. Gene therapy is very different. It’s considered a very precise medicine where we’re just making the proteins that we’re looking for. So, if there was a protein that have negative side effects, we just wouldn’t use that.
Mark Sackler I understand you had to go to Columbia to get this done. Obviously, this was to circumvent regulatory limitations here in the US. When will something like this be available for here in the US. So far you’ve only got N=1 for data. You’re obviously going to need to try this in a lot more people.
If you want to wait for drugs like this to be passed through the FDA, you’re going to have to wait 15 to 20 years and a company’s going to have to raise a billion or a billion and a half dollars.
Liz Parrish We’ve been looking at different locations around the world to do expedited trials. We’re also going to be working hand-in-hand with a company that’s offering consensual use of gene therapy in locations in the world we can actually give that. If you want to wait for drugs like this to be passed through the FDA, you’re going to have to wait 15 to 20 years and a company’s going to have to raise a billion or a billion and a half dollars. We think that’s the wrong way to move forward with medicine. Over 150,000 people die every day and we would like to give expedited use of the therapeutics and collect the human data that will then allow countries like the United States to start using these drugs right in the country for a fraction of the price and in a fraction of the time. I’ve been arguing for a couple of years with people who didn’t believe that people would start doing this in their homes within the next few years. And now we see that there are kits available online that you can start using the technology at home. We are following what was probably considered a more conservative approach because we’re asking that people use medical doctors and that you let us do prognostics and diagnostics before and after so that we actually know what’s working and we don’t work in the vagaries of do-it-yourself home therapeutics.
Mark Sackler You dealt with just two aspects of aging with these initial procedures. Aubrey de grey, for example, sites in total, seven key areas of damage and the aging process. So, I’m wondering which additional ones are you going to address and does your total count agree with Aubrey?
Liz Parrish We believe that there’s 10 hallmarks of aging, so we believe in a few more. We believe that some of the therapeutics will target more than one of those areas. Like the actual telomere lengthening actually targets about four of the areas, one of them being mitochondrial dysfunction, the other ones being intra and extracellular communication and then telomere attrition being the fourth one, so we think that if we can find therapeutics that tackle all 10 of these, we could potentially bring the aging process potentially to a halt in the human body, but then we have to work on regeneration and so that will require even more therapeutics. The areas that we’re missing right now are glycation and proteostasis issues which are similar; they are different areas of a protein build-ups and/or accumulation with sugars and the cells that we have a hard time breaking down, but we continue to look for therapeutics that will cover all 10 hallmarks and that’s why we don’t think that it will be one or two treatments to actually reverse biological aging.
Mark Sackler I’m going to bring up another name now that I know you’re familiar with because he’s on your board of directors. That would be Dr. George Church of Harvard University. He’s got his own program to start testing in age reversal therapy in dogs next year and hopefully follow that up in humans by 2022. Are you familiar with what he’s doing? Is it in any way related to what you’re doing?
Liz Parrish Well, what they’re doing is quite amazing and they’re looking at the editing of several genes at one time. That will be what the future of the technology looks like to remit the biological aging and, of course, we’re excited about that technology and we’re excited about any of their advances that they have. I assume that outside of those technologies we will need things like the use of stem cells to rehabilitate and regrow some of the areas. And we’ll also need neuron stimulators so that we can regrow the neurons in the brain. There’s probably a few things that might not be capitulated in there, but I’m very, very excited about all the work that George is doing. You have to realize that George has access to the most research, the most funding for research in the world, and so our eyes definitely turned to him when it comes to what the advances will actually be.
As far as getting early human data, that’s Bioviva’s job. We can do many things in dogs and mice but we actually need human data of what happens when something happens in a human. One piece of human data is worth a billion mice because there are many drugs that have never translated out of mouse models to humans and there are some drugs that might have killed mice that were passed long before we had those animal models to humans. Many were very important in moving therapeutics forward for humans. We’re very excited about what George is doing and of course all research and development we look at as a potential for the future of humans. The problem right now is targeting a whole human adult body with these technologies and that’s why the human work cannot be diminished by work that’s being done anywhere else.
Mark Sackler In his book, The Abolition of Aging, which I believe you are mentioned in, David Wood forecasts a 50% probability of widely available, affordable human rejuvenation therapy by the year 2040? Where do you stand on that forecast?
Liz Parrish Well, again, I think that it depends on how risk averse we are. At Bioviva, along with a with a consulting company, we will start working this year to get human data as to how well the therapies that we have right now may work well enough to be considered one of those types of therapeutics. But we have to prove that in over 10 patients, I’m very optimistic that by 2040, either the human race will be going extinct or we will have modified ourselves significantly with these new therapies.
Our job is to enhance human bodies first against biological aging and then to enhance them to keep up with the rate of progress in robotics so that human bodies are competitive both cognitively and physically
Our job is to enhance human bodies first against biological aging and then to enhance them to keep up with the rate of progress in robotics so that human bodies are competitive both cognitively and physically, as anything else that we can create. We’re very excited about the future, but we’re still starting with very simple premises because laws and regulations have held us back from actually helping people. We allow people to die rather than to access new therapeutics even if they’re dying. We believe that the terminally ill especially should have access to anything that they would like and help pioneer the future for the rest of the world. But apparently this is a difficult conversation, and something called bio ethics, probably the least ethical thing on the planet right now, is allowing over 40 million people a year to die without access to new technologies and is completely incomprehensible at this point.
[The full interview is available at https://seekingdelphi.com/2018/01/29/podcast-20-ending-aging-part-two-with-elizabeth-parrish/ or on iTunes, PlayerFM and YouTube. Search for Seeking Delphi™.]
Elizabeth Parrish is the Founder and CEO of BioViva, a company committed to extending healthy lifespans using cell technologies. Liz is a humanitarian, entrepreneur, innovator, and a leading voice for genetic cures. As a strong proponent of progress and education for the advancement of regenerative medicine modalities, she serves as a motivational speaker to the public at large for the life sciences. She is actively involved in international educational media outreach and is a founding member of the International Longevity Alliance (ILA). She is an affiliated member of the Complex Biological Systems Alliance (CBSA), which is a unique platform for Mensa based, highly gifted persons who advance scientific discourse and discovery.
The mission of the CBSA is to further scientific understanding of biological complexity and the nature and origins of human disease. She is the founder of BioTrove Investments LLC and the BioTrove Podcasts which is committed to offering a meaningful way for people to learn about and fund research in regenerative medicine.