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Harvard start-up continues development of controversial anti-aging drug, raises $5.5M

By Jesse Schwartz
Published: September 12th, 2018

A Harvard University start-up is developing a new drug that could slow the aging process and is moving toward commercialization, despite skepticism among some scientists about the agent’s effectiveness.

The start-up Elevian is exploring whether daily injections of a special protein known as GDF11 can improve the body’s ability to restore itself and eventually treat conditions such as coronary artery disease, Alzheimer’s, and sarcopenia, a muscle-loss disease.

The venture is based on research showing that when the bloodstreams of young and old mice are fused together, the old mice seem to be rejuvenated. Elevian co-founder and Harvard biologist Amy Wagners eventually concluded that GDF11 was the key element in producing that effect.

The start-up raised $5.5 million in seed funding, but it has also stirred up some controversy among drug developers. For instance, a team of scientists at Novartis found that GDF11 levels don’t decline with age, and that the protein actually hinders rather than boosts muscle regeneration. However, Elevian says it will soon offer new data that supports the drug and provides answers to the skeptics of the protein’s effects.

“We have overcome that concern to our satisfaction and the satisfaction of our investors,” says Mark Allen, CEO of Elevian. “We hope to convince the broader scientific world.”

Source: MIT Technology Review

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