2018 Speaker Series: Interview with Liz Parrish of BioViva
BDYHAX blog writer Michael Garfield sat down with BDYHAX 2018 speaker Liz Parrish to discuss her company BioViva and the landscape and future of gene therapy and life extension.
Michael Garfield: So tell us a little bit about the origin of BioViva.
Liz Parish: Sure, so BioViva came into being to solve a very important problem and that’s actually translating research to humans. So we’ve extended the lifespan of worms and of model organisms – worms up to 11 time you know, flies, mice, and fish between four and six times with healthy life span – but we’re not translating this medicine to humans. And so in 2013 when my son got sick, he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, I was thrown into a world of a children’s hospital where many kids are dying without access to what is considered “experimental” medicine. And yet this medicine, I had worked with stem cell education for 2 or 3 years before that, it gives us the ability to do many things that we couldn’t in the past. And even these kids in a children’s research hospital didn’t have access to that technology. So I started traveling, looking for cures for kids, and I actually found that cures for kids and cures for adults are very tightly entwined. It’s called “Cures for complex disorders” and in there lies the science of genetics – and essentially genetics will give us the ability to not only overcome the diseases that we are plagued with today, like heart disease, Alzheimer’s and cancer, but actually gives us the ability to maybe modulate our genome to survive things like global warming, transportation in space, and other things that we will want to adopt as we move into this new world of technology. And so I became very excited that we could potentially solve multitude of problems by collecting the data, but I was really staggered by how much research never translates to humans. For instance, one of the gene therapies we’re looking at is telomeres induction, the gene therapy technology, and the work on it has been done for over 15 years. Animals aging has been reversed a couple times and yet we don’t move this technology into humans. And so BioViva was built to solve that very important problem of translating medicine. Why every year, through universities, we have millions of papers, and yet through the regulatory service we may only have a handful of drugs and most of them are repurpose drugs within the system that actually come out for human use. The evidence in gene and cell technology is that we need a new regulatory path that needs to be much quicker because these are much more concise technologies and we want to get them in human bodies in order to get the human data, and we want third-party analysis on everything so everything is very transparent, what is being done, unlike a traditional a trial. We don’t want to hide data. We don’t want to toss data. We want to bring to the forefront what we have, how humans can move forward with it, and what new technology will need to complement it; what sort of combinatorial therapies will need to actually create bodies that stay in homeostasis health for an extended period of time.
MG: So how much of the work of this company is on the scientific front and how much of it is on the like lobbying and legislative front?
LP: Oh boy, yeah… so essentially we have done a lot of each. We are opening up research and development. That’s actually where we have researchers right now, but we spent the least amount of time. We think the most important human problem is actually getting the evidence that has been stuck in translation to humans to see if it actually works, okay. So we are creating consensual gene therapy clinics and clinics in other places where we will run proper trials to see what actually works in humans. So we don’t want to spend millions of dollars on research when the research has already been done. We should accept a meta-analysis of what is already been done, expedite these to the patients in biggest need – greatest need – or who want to use them by consensual use, and start analyzing that data as a world. We need to come together and see what we’re actually sitting on. We need to open up innovation.
MG: It sounds like a very similar problem to what we’re seeing in the scientific community in general, as scientific findings are like locked behind pay-gated journal publications and that kind of thing. So I’m curious: In what ways are you already seeing…where do you find the hope, in terms of people that are working to open source this kind of research and where are your big successes right now?
LP: Well there’s a lot of people who are interested, and there’s investors getting interested now, and there are thousands of people who contact us that would like to be part of trials. They would like to be part of pioneering this technology for the world. We do have a lot of problems when information comes out about our company. We have a lot of people who come up and they might complain, and they might say: “Oh, but the research. Oh, but the safe translation. Oh, but the ‘this’. Oh, but the ‘that’.” We have to be very aware of where everyone gets their money, who complains, and we have to be very transparent about what’s happening in research right now. So for instance, there was just a transparency put on scientific papers, and 85% of them, upwards of 85%, of them not being reproducible. Ok? So people are either hiding information and not putting it into those documents, which is very likely; or else those are not reproducible sciences. We need to find out what works for humans. So right now we have over 100 thousand people that die every day. That’s over 40 million people a year. We have enough precipice now to move forward and start translating this message. We have to stop being risk-adverse. Safety and very expensive trials do not go hand in hand. we’ll be as safe as we possibly can, but if we do not translate this medicine you will die of the same diseases. So we have to, sort of like, have a realization come over all of us. To realize at what point we’re sitting in and what point we should start moving forward in the safest way possible.
MG: It seems like you have one of these things where it’s extraordinary reward, comes with extraordinary risk. And when you’re talking about the reward of maybe like 5 or 10 times as much, what you call in your talks as “healthspan”, – which I really like is to differentiate that from lifespan because that seems to be one of the more popular objections to life extension therapy – you’re addressing. It is a puzzle. How do you… you can’t just take the volunteers right? Like how is this being architectured actually in practice?
LP:We are very different company. So I spent the last more than 20 years steeped in software. I would like to see biotechnology bought and sold liked basic software technology and hardware. We need to start of open innovation, but we do need to be safe while we do it. And so, you know, this is where you get the touchy aspects of how do you put together a business like this. So right now if you’re an average biotech business you’ve spent hopefully millions of dollars on your research because that’s the traditional thing to do, and then maybe some investors will pick you up and if you can raise a billion dollars and want to spend 15 years you might get a drug to market, okay. Most small companies aren’t even looking to do that. They’re looking maybe for phase 1 at most and get bought out. We are looking at changing the landscape of how biotechnology is done. We think that all companies need a platform, an initial platform, that when they have the basic toxicity data and the understanding there that they can actually move forward into humans, humans either with the greatest need or in humans with consensual use. So…then we actually have something to invest in. You know, investors have shied away from biotech because of the billion dollar price tag and the unlikelihood of actually getting a drug through because only the safest potentially safest drugs are chosen to go through. We need to actually create a platform where each company can come and with 100 patients, not the very few patients that we see going through trials now, we can actually show where the best bets are. So that company can either efficiently decide to fold, change the way that they are manufacturing their technology to make it more efficient, or fly and have the financial capability of actually getting through regulation
MG: So what do you see this evolving into over the next five years or so; where do you see the company going and how do you see society adapting to all of these changes?
LP: It’s very similar to building the first supercomputer. Each one of these gene therapies, they’re massively expensive. We’re going into manufacturing, that’s one of the areas that we’re going into to drive the cost down. We’re opening up consensual locations where people can take gene therapies. We’re asking to do trials in other locations to start out with one gene therapy at a time and roll it out. Right now it comes with a very high cost. We need to get those costs down. So right now it’s the early adopters. It’s the pioneers. It’s the people who will say that “I will go first” or “I will fund 10 people to go first”. That’s fantastic too. And then the technology will become less and less expensive as we are able to build in bigger and bigger sizes, okay. And at that point, the sky will really be the limit. So we are starting with myostatin inhibitor that increases your muscle mass. It works every animal model it’s been through safety and efficacy, the same gene has, in the United States, for muscular dystrophy. “We want to pump you up”. We want to make sure that when you’re 60, you know, you’re still able to run your stairs. When you’re 70 you don’t have to give up your your house that has a long driveway, things like that. We want to keep people active longer. We’ll try telomeres inducers; where we’re going to partner with companies to start trying senescence cell killers maybe in smaller areas of the body first. We’re looking for glycation breakers… You know, we’re looking to go after the 10 hallmarks of what makes a cell old. Is biological aging a disease? Yeah, simply put: It is. But it’s actually the diseases, the 10 things happening at the cell. So I think in 10 years you and I won’t call things Alzheimer’s, and cancer, and heart disease. What we may say that is the long-term outcome but we’ll say: “Oh, I have glycation”, “I have mitochondrial dysfunction”, “I have telomere attrition”. We’ll start talking about the hallmarks of aging, the things that are actually driving those diseases instead of what those diseases are called now, because they’re just symptoms. We’re going to start pushing them off the map. We’re going to start working with what it really is, and then after that we’ll start using these like technology. You know, you may decide to live in Antarctica and in the next 25 years we’ll probably know the genes that would be best for you during that time. And if you’re only going to live there for part-time we might have RNA therapies, short-acting therapies, that help you while you’re there deal with less light or 24 hours of light with glaring sun coming off the…not the pavement but the snow. And if you’re going to, you know, spend time in space will have things for that, and we’ll just be dealing with global warming and various other things. You may want better eyesight. You know, what we’re going to start looking at this more like a programming problem, which will make me happy when we start looking at other organisms and the technology. It is “technology” that they have and maybe what we want to adopt and how that actually helps us live longer and better. So, the long-term looks really fantastic; the short-term looks like a lot of work and getting things done and trying to – as much as we can – make everybody happy; but certainly people aren’t going to be happy because of the myths that we live by. Things like very difficult regulations that we have falsely thought create safe drugs, but they don’t create safe drugs. As a matter of fact some of the top 10 drugs some of them only have the efficacy, top 10 drugs that are prescribed today, only the efficacy of 25%, meaning that 75% of people who take them get nothing but the ill side effects. So you know, gene therapy gives us the ability to go right after that protein, upregulate that protein, and we will know the advantage to that – and as this expands, we will learn more about the genome – we will learn more to modulate and manipulate. It’s really survival.
MG: Well that’s awesome. It’s fascinating to hear about the combination of urgency, that sense of, you know, “I’m a parent I want to help my child” and that sense of that long time scale where we’re kind of thinking our way into approaching these problems in the way that we, as a species, have taken on other huge like cathedral level projects. So you know, that this is… we’re starting to think and in the way that we’re going to have to think of we’re living 3-5 hundred years or more.
LP: People love it because it’s more natural than some ways of doing things. Like you know, for the the natural folks and for the the folks that aren’t bothered by that it’s kind of a no brainer. But it really is an exciting future. It’s… but you know right now, it’s a hard fought battle to be able to do any of these things basically, and that just needs to be that well understood that we are doing the best that we can to ensure that we open the doors to something that is safe and that you know even though the few adopters can get it now it trickles down to everyone.
MG: Awesome – Liz Parrish of BioViva the pleasure to talk to you about the stuff; to get familiar with your work. I’m really looking forward to making your acquaintance at the BodyHacking Conference in 2018
LP: Yeah and oh! another thing about the last question you asked, the last statement you had: really really important, this is not new stuff guys. This is not new stuff. We have already mandated curing cancer, curing Alzheimer’s, curing heart disease. There is a charity for every one of them. Curing diabetes like my son has… we’ve already mandated it. We just found out how we actually have to do it. And it’s not just our company. It’s all companies. We know now that it’s that aging degenerating cell or the autoimmune, the immune system for autoimmune disorders, and in cancer is genomic instability. So really, you know, look into it. It’s really great stuff.
MG: That’s awesome I’ve so many more questions for you but they’re going to have to wait thanks so much
LP: You’re welcome thanks for having me and I guess I will see you …I’ll see you soon I’ll see you in person
Liz Parrish is the Founder and CEO of BioViva, a company committed to extending healthy lifespans using gene and cell technologies. In 2015, Liz became the first person in the world to take dual gene therapies to treat aging. Liz is known as “the woman who wants to genetically engineer you,” she is a humanitarian, entrepreneur and innovator, and a leading voice for regenerative medicine. She is also the founder of BioTrove Investments and BioTrove Podcasts which is committed to offering a meaningful way for people to learn about and fund research in regenerative medicine.