The Hebrew University Portfolio Company addresses modern medicine’s number one problem: extending lifespan without disease and has the potential to improve quality of life for the world’s rapidly growing aging population.
Jerusalem, Israel- May 23, 2022– Vitalunga, the biotech startup based on the research led by Professor Einav Gross and Professor Shmuel Ben-Sasson of The Hebrew University’s Faculty of Medicine, has developed a novel oral drug that aims to treat and prevent aging-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. While many successes have been made to extend lifespan in aging adults, disease-free aging has remained a challenge. The novel drug has the potential to remarkably improve the quality of life of aging adults, Yissum, the technology transfer company of the Hebrew University announced today. Vitalunga is currently raising funds in order to begin pre-clinical trials.
Aging-related diseases have a common pathogenic mechanism that results in the deterioration of cells in otherwise healthy tissues. Professor Gross and Professor Ben-Sasson’s creative drug-design platform enabled them to discover a family of novel compounds that facilitate potent autophagy (a fundamental cell survival mechanism that allows cells to adapt to metabolic stress) and mitophagy (a mitochondrial quality control mechanism that prevents detrimental effects and reinstates cellular homeostasis in response to stress) in human cells. Moreover, it promotes lifespan and healthspan in the model organism C. elegans. Their manuscript, which describes in detail the biological features of the first generation of these compounds, was just published online in “Autophagy”, a leading journal in the field. The discovery of these compounds led Vitalunga to the development of a novel drug-candidate, targeting prevention of aging-associated deterioration. Vitalunga’s agent ensures the perpetual rejuvenation of cells in diseased tissues, enabling, for the first time, a drug-responsive, unified target for the prevention and treatment of multiple aging-related diseases.
According to the UN’s World Population Aging report, the global population of aging adults in 2019 was 703 million and is expected to surpass 1.5 billion by 2050. At a time when countries like Japan are struggling with population record highs of elderly individuals and the subsequent burdening of healthcare systems, Vitalunga’s drug is a promising solution that will both minimize these burdens, while providing a better, healthier quality of life for its users. “Our observations in-lab of the unique properties of these molecules are extremely exciting,” remarked Professor Muli Ben-Sasson. “A success of the Vitalunga drug in the clinic will mean an entry to a universe of healthy aging.”
“Professor Ben-Sasson and Professor Gross’s findings have a high significance for the global aging population,” said Dr. Itzik Goldwaser, CEO of Yissum. “This milestone will bring the startup one step closer to minimizing the unbearable burden that aging-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s has on individuals, their families and the health care system as a whole. Yissum is proud of this project and looks forward to Vitalunga’s inevitable growth.”