Nobody wants their pets to grow old. When it comes to our precious furry friends, we, as humans will do just about anything to keep them happy, healthy, and most importantly, alive in this day and age, we live so closely with our pets, that they’ve become family and losing your pet is just like losing a family member. There’s nothing worse than watching your once strong, active, and full of life. Companion slowly succumb to arthritis, blindness, or heart disease. My guest today wants to prevent all of that. Nixon. Claire is the CEO of animal. Bio-sciences a company that is trying to cure aging and animals. In this interview, we talk about some of the exciting results, the animal bio-sciences seeing so far, the difference between targeting animal aging and human aging and why curing aging and animals may actually help speed the process of curing aging in humans. It was a great interview. And if you’re interested at all in learning just how long your best friend may be around then this is the episode for you.
The human experience is changing and it’s going to happen a lot faster than you think the world is going to be a vastly different place in the next 10, 20 years because of what’s happening in the biotech industry right now. Welcome to the simple biotech podcast. My name is James rule, and I’m your host. The goal of the simple biotech podcast is to interview the researchers, founders, and investors that are working directly in the industry and to translate what they’re working on into simple and easy to understand language. If that sounds like something you’re interested in, let’s get started. Hi Nick, Thanks for joining me today.
Absolute pleasure, James. Nice to be here.
You have quite a lengthy and quite diverse resume. If I’m not mistaken, you started off in the pharmaceutical industry. You moved on to the banking industry, and now you’re back working in the bio-sciences. Can you touch a bit on your journey here? Maybe explain a bit about why you hopped around between industries and ultimately what brought you back to the world of biotech and become the CEO of animal bio-sciences, which if people aren’t aware is one of the, I think there’s five, maybe six daughter companies of life bio-sciences, which is Davidson Claire’s company.
So my background, I started in pharmaceuticals following a degree in food technology and applied science. Now family has always been science-based family headed off into the, uh, the science world, more on the manufacturing side, more so than the research side. I worked in pharmaceuticals making everything from baby formula to the contraceptive pill. I guess they’re a little opposed to each other, might all sorts of over the
Counter products and prescription products and started working in data analytics within pharmaceuticals, around laboratory information management and around logistics. I took a bit of a, uh, let’s say a bit of a holiday a year off and came back, having traveled half the world. And that was when I was offered a job in banking, just a short term contract because of my daughter analytics skills. I slotted right into the banking industry. Within three months, I was running projects. I, within six months, I was a partner in a consulting firm and I spent 12, 15 years consulting and working in the banking industry across Australia and across the world in major banks, I felt like my soul was a little bit blackened by the banking industry. Let’s say that only because I felt like I was pushing numbers and I wasn’t actually helping anyone. An opportunity came up.
I started working in animal tracking devices. So callers that track activity in dogs and cats and location for finding your dog. And it was at that time that David Sinclair, who happens to be my brother gave me a call and said, we’re starting an animal company. I know you’ve always been interested in animals. It’ll dovetail nicely with the tracking business that you’re working in. And of course, pharmaceutical background and business background were most appropriate to come across the company. Two years ago, we started animal bio sciences and we are primarily focused on the health and wellbeing, health span and lifespan of companion animals. So as part of the life bio sciences group, as you mentioned, where a daughter company, that takes technologies that are developed within life by the sciences, and we apply them in the veterinary sector. So we’re using very similar technologies, not same ones as life, but the same class of drugs and same classes of technologies. We apply to be a cats and dogs and horses. So that’s a bit of a background.
Yeah, that’s great. And it’s a super interesting story that you’ve kind of, I mean, that, that was over what, 20 years? 20 years.
Yeah. About that.
The thing I hear consistently with everyone I’ve interviewed is that working in this industry in biotech and longevity in particular, it’s really given people more of a sense of meaning than anything, because of course in banking you can make some pretty absurd money, but when it comes to this type of stuff, you’re just really giving back to the human race as a whole. And or, I mean, in your case, I guess to the animals, the dog species, the cats, the horses as a whole, which is equally as valuable, in my opinion, that’s a really interesting path you’ve taken there. So animal bio-sciences you guys, you mentioned you to dogs, cats.
Yeah. So much to my surprise, the horse is considered a companion animal. That was much to my surprise quite a while ago, but, uh, we focus really on age related decline in those animals, we focus on fertility in horses and we have products or molecules that we’re testing now that work for obesity and weight management. So as you might know, the humanization of pets has happened increasingly recent history when I was growing up or when we were kids on the dog was something that slept outside was something that was not really part of the family. It was more of an add on these days. Animals are considered family members, pets are allowed in the house, pet sleep on beds. There’s 101 different products you can buy for your, for your dog these days or for your pets these days. And what we’re saying in that, um, in that humanization of pets is an increasing demand for both pet products. But certainly what it’s caused is an obesity epidemic in our companion animals. People equate love with feeding. I love my dog. Hasn’t he been a great dog? I’ll give him another trait. And what we’re saying in the U S alone is about 65% of companion animals actually obese and have weight issues when we’re targeting these health issues. We’re not just targeting the end point of lifespan, but we’re looking for ways to intervene midlife, to extend lifespan as well.
Sort of answers one of my main questions I wanted to answer when it comes to, I guess, curing aging in animals for securing it in humans. Obviously, you know, the humans have the nine pathologies of aging. I forget the exact phrasing, the nine hallmarks of aging in humans, which I think that life bio-sciences is kind of the five companies are focusing on one or more of each of those. That’s kind of their strategy with animal bio-sciences you guys, it seems are kind of focusing on just a few of them and you know, maybe it’s different. Maybe animals don’t have the nine hallmarks of aging. Maybe it’s something totally different that you could expand on, but it seems like for you guys, you’re mostly focusing on obesity and what was the other one, obesity and fertility and why those two,
I guess the main reason is the FDA or the CVM, which is the center for veterinary medicine that registers drugs. They don’t recognize aging as what’s called an end point or something that you can register a drug against. So an end point might be that it cures cancer, or it, it reduces a fever, whatever the case may be because the AI doesn’t recognize slowing of aging. As an end point, we can’t actually register a drug against that. What’s called an indication. So what we’re actually doing is we’re looking for properties that these drugs have, that have an end point that the FDA CVM recognizes and these things are precursors to longevity. Anyway. So for example, what we see in the declining in fertility, in mares, in aged horses is as they get older, their oversights decline. So that’s their eggs, basically the early form of their eggs in a horse.
We found that with these molecules that were actually rejuvenating these oocytes and improving the quality of these other sites, if you could compare that to well, not compare it to, but as an indication of lifespan, this is where the quality of the cells and the horse are declining, particularly the fertility related cells and what our molecules are doing is rejuvenating themselves. So it’s an early indication of where we’re showing that we’re reducing the effects of age and reboosting some of these molecules, as you would know, NAD boosters, we really boost ID in the horses and this rejuvenate their cells and increases their fertility. That’s on the fertility side, on the obesity side, again, we’re using a molecule that’s called a mitochondrial alone. Now what that actually is each of your cells in your body have a powerhouse in a piece. The mitochondria that creates the energy themselves.
What this molecule does is it makes that little energy producer about 10% less efficient. You actually burn more energy for the same amount of calories that you put in here. So your cells are a little less efficient and they burn a little less efficiently. And therefore you use more energy. What this does is it burns fat off your body. And that’s how we reduce obesity. One of the side effects of that, or one of the upstream effects of that, which we think mitochondrial and pulling like this, we’ve seen extends life in fruit flies. And we’re following that up with other mammals and looking at mouse data as well. But it also triggers things like reduction in insulin resistance. So this early indications show that these molecules might resist the onset of diabetes, for example. So, as I say, our longterm goal is longevity and the molecules that we use show indications towards extending the lifespan.
We have to hit indications along the way. So we can register these drugs and make sure that we’re doing the right studies. And of course get a return for our investors along the way to the big prize of longevity. Yeah, there’s a lot, I want to dissect there. There’s quite a few questions I want to go into in particular about the trials and how, I mean, the regulations, all of that stuff, how it’s different with animals versus humans, but let’s just put that on pause for a second. Cause you mentioned some, some interesting stuff there that you, you said NAD boosters in horses. Are you talking about like NMN and hour as well, or is it something completely different with horses completely different? Again, I’m saying family of molecules, as I mentioned before. So animal bio sciences works in the same family of drugs and we have protection and patents and other things around the molecules and the use of those molecules in those instances.
So it’s not NMN and that’s not enough, but it is something that’s in the same class of NAD boosting drugs. But we’ve found through testing that this particular molecule that we found is particularly good at boosting NAD in our sites or in the eggs of a horse. Is that something that’s being used at this molecule, you know, secret molecule is set up something that is also being tested with the other life bio-sciences companies like in humans. So the short answer there is, as I mentioned, we don’t use the same class, the same molecules in humans and animals. The reason for that is regulations look at adverse events or things that happen in the testing of animals. And if you have an adverse event in an animal with a molecule, it may impact the pathway of the human drug. So what we do is we use the same class of molecule, which means that we can use that molecule as a proof of concept. We can get it out there into animals and we can target them specifically for animals. But then we create different molecules. What are called NCS or new chemical entities that target specific things in humans. Now that’s out of my preview that all sits within the life sciences team and animal bio sciences. We don’t do anything to do with humans, but we’ve selected specific molecules that target for animals, which are different to the ones that are used for humans.
You have a question about that though, and maybe I’m totally off here, but my assumption would be that if you guys figure something out with animals in the animal, bio-sciences, that was like, wow, this is pretty amazing. This is working really well, that in some way you could use that those findings kind of pass it on to some of the life. Bio seems the relevant life bio-science team and let them take that information and try and figure out how they can make it relevant to humans. Would that be something that you guys,
Yeah, that’s exactly the case. We share information between the companies, any discoveries we’d make within animal bio sciences are shared with bio sciences, but as I mentioned, they will use it for guidance, but they’ll use it to inform what they’re doing in humans, but with a different molecule, for example. So some of these molecules, and I’m not specifically talking about NID boosters, but just in general, some molecules will target liver cells. For example, other molecules will distribute into the body and go into the brain or go into muscle tissue depending what the indication is like, what you’re looking to achieve different molecules, you use different molecules in different ways. And they also depend on by species. A molecule might distribute into a dog’s body different to the way it will distribute it into a human’s body. So to answer your question, yes, we share valuable information. If we make a great discovery, we’ll give that to life sciences and vice versa, but there’s more used for information to make sure that we’re doing the right thing for the right species. Got it.
And I wonder about, so I guess this is kind of a two part question with animals is the clinical trials going to, I mean, are there clinical trials with animals, are their phase one phase two and all that? I mean, what is it like? Yeah. What is it like getting it through clinical trials and surely it’s not as expensive and as time consuming as humans,
Not certainly not, it’s a lot faster and less expensive. Let’s go with the similarities. First. The similarities are that it all has to be done under what’s called GLP, which has good laboratory practice and GMP manufacturing. So good manufacturing practice. What that means is that all the controls and guidelines and all the things that you use within your trials have to have the same level of quality as what happens for humans. You have to document the same things, report the same things. So it is very rigid and it is certainly a process that’s monitored very strictly by the CDM and FDA where the difference lies is that in animals, you don’t go through phase one, phase two phase three trials. What you do is you do a target species, pivotal trials. So what that would be is you would say, is this safe in a dog, for example, and you do a target animal safety study, and that’s enough to say it’s safe. Assuming everything goes well, you then do an efficacy trial in the target species. And if you can show efficacy in a dog, then you can go to market. If you have those things, of course the other controls around manufacturing, the other pieces,
It’s kind of a genius model in a way like bio sciences, having the animal bio-sciences in there because you can get really meaningful results very quickly with the animal testing things I animals, which, you know, obviously you go through the safety, as you just mentioned, you have to make sure that it’s going to be safe on the species first. You can definitely find out a lot of information, a lot quicker than having to go through the human trials and just waiting and seeing what happens and being able to pass that information along really seems like it’s gonna make things a lot faster for the longevity industry at biotech.
Yeah, most definitely we can undertake trials. The other excellent thing about working with animals is where able to control their environment a lot better. An example is we did a trial with dogs doing activity or increase in activity and reduction in frailty, where we put the tracking collars on the dogs and we allowed them, you know, they had time by themselves. They had time with a person playing throughout periods of the day, but they were all monitored and controlled and were able to statistically analyze that activity data to show the molecules that we’re giving to these dogs versus a control actually increase the activity that these dogs had. And they were actually more active during the day and slept better at night when taking these molecules, we’ve been able to show things that would be very difficult to do in humans, being able to control humans for their activity and monitor them with a device it’s very difficult to do to see if it’s increased or decreased.
And I, when we’re looking at obesity again, it’s very easy to do that in a dog, you can fatten up a dog very quickly. You can control its food and you can measure the amount of weight that you can take off it. Again, very difficult to do with humans. They snake food on the sides and say, they’ve done some activity when they haven’t. So there is, there’s definitely a lot of advantages. The biggest one for us though, is that obviously the lifespan of a dog is a lot shorter than to prove longevity in the human trials are in the many tens of years to prove longevity in a dog or in the space of five to 10 years. Again, we can prove longevity and get that social proof so we can get institutions like the FDA to recognize increase in longevity as, as a target indication that we can train.
Yeah. I’m sure if, if you were to show that you can increase dog or cat’s lifespans fairly significantly, they would probably be like, Oh wow, this is, this is a real thing. And finally get the attention that the industry
Exactly. That’s where life and animal bio sciences work so well together is that as you say, we can get there faster. We can get social proof out there. We can get people’s heads around longevity and increasing lifespan whilst it sounds like the utopia we all talk about and that’d be great to live longer. When we talk to people, there’s actually quite a lot of reluctance for people to live longer themselves. It’s not until they realized that it’s an increasing health span, not an increase in lifespan because nobody wants to be sick or longer. Everybody wants to be healthy. And that’s a key difference in the way we target aging is we actually target the effects of aging, not just increasing the lifetime that you have at a lower quality.
I talked about this longevity self with my friends, my family, all the time. And I to get the same response of like, Oh, I don’t really want to live much longer than however, you know, 80 years, 90 years I have to continuously tell them. No, no, no, no, no. Just imagine you’re living in your 35 year old body for an extra 30 years. So I think that over time, this is part of the reason why I started the podcast is to get the information out there, let people know about healthy lifespans, increasing that. So that, let me ask you a question about another two part question, how different are humans to dogs and cats versus humans to mice? Because human semis is obviously that, you know, you’re always hearing you can’t trust that data cause it’s a mouse data. It’s not really human art mice. You know, you hear that constantly. There’s some type of more significant relative data with when it comes to dogs and cats. I mean, since they’re bigger, I don’t know. Maybe that does nothing to do with it
A really, really, really good question. The reason being it does depend on what you’re targeting and it does depend on what molecules you’re using, how well animals translate. For example, if you’re doing testing on skin products that would be best done in something like a pig or a rabbit, both of those animals have skin that, that responds similarly to human skin. If you were looking at joints or osteoarthritis, then a dog is a great model for osteoarthritis. Whereas something like a rabbit is not a very good model for osteoarthritis in that case. So it does depend on the translation of what you’re trying to do in general, though, most things do translate through species. You do usually see what happens in a mouse happens in adult, happens in human. The differences that you usually see though, of course, because of size, you have to have a different dose.
So a lot of the testing is around, well, this much work in a mouse, but how much does that actually mean in a dog or any human? And it doesn’t always translate the same way there are tables and there’s things called allometric scaling tables, which allow you to say, well, the dosing, this animal will equate to this inhuman, but it’s not always the case. So a lot of that dose stuff is done when it comes to picking species for translational areas, dogs are very good for obesity in the space that we’re in. And we, we believe longevity. We’ve also seen that horses are excellent translational model for fertility in a mouse. When we look at our sites in a mouse they’re so small, they don’t actually have the same distinct features as human, whether they’re, but you can’t actually see them or work with them because they’re too small. When we work in a horse, I was side is very large, even bigger than human outside
Awesome. I don’t think I’ve heard that hard before.
So an oversight is an early form of an egg in a female. There’s a, when eggs form in a female, they they’re, you know, early stage of development. And this is the stage as they get released to be able to be fertilized. They actually go through a process where they change from our site to an egg and they develop what’s called this indels divide. So their DNA actually separates to fall in the half of your genes that will combine with the sperm when it’s fertilized to create the new offspring. So the oocyte is the really, really upstream version of an egg before it’s released for fertilization. So horse oocytes or horse pre eggs have the same sort of structures that human oocytes or pre eggs have. So when we’re looking at human fertility, we can use the horse oversight as a really good model for what’s going to happen in a human.
Whereas if you do it in mice, you can observe the outcome, but it’s very difficult to see the structures or investigate or analyze the structures within because they’re so small. So different species, different molecules, different translations, but in humans and in animals, you always start in lower organisms or not lower smaller organisms. So we always start in a mouse or a rat just to understand how the chemicals or the molecules affect the mouse, just to get some guidance on the next steps of moving into an adult girl horse or whatever it might be. And in the human realm, it must go through a small animal and a large animal test before it goes into a human. So they have to pick to a mouse and a rat and then a dog or a mouse and rat and a monkey or whatever it might be. That’s a different pathway for humans than it is for animals.
Yeah, that makes sense. And what I mean, are there any significant results you can share so far in terms of, let’s just say just generally increasing lifespan for our precious pets, have you guys come across some pretty exciting stuff?
We’re still in the early stages of increasing lifespan, per se, without large numbers of animals. We do have plans for the future to do large numbers of animals in trials, but at the moment we’re working more around reduction in frailty, in older animals and increasing activity. So as I mentioned, we did a trial showing activity of dogs. And in that trial, the outcome we were looking for was to take older animals and show that these older animals vitality would be increased using these molecules, which was the case. So we don’t actually have any direct shot on goal, so to speak for longevity, but we certainly have indications on the way to show you that we’re reducing the effects of that.
Yeah. Well, it’d be really exciting when this stuff starts to come out and more results come out. I mean, I know for me, like I lost two dogs and I was a kid. It was the worst thing. Seeing them just becomes so frail and so old, you know, blind, all that stuff. So knowing that people are working on this stuff is very exciting.
Yeah. So we have a lot of anecdotal evidence from some owners who have older animals that we’ve worked with their veterinarians to do some small scale studies with them. And we found that people are saying that, that, you know, my old dog that couldn’t jump up on the couch can now jump up on the couch again. The limpy had when he went out in the snow has gone and now he runs her own snow without any issues. So whilst we can’t stand behind it yet, scientifically we don’t have the numbers yet because we haven’t constructed those trials, but we’re certainly seeing early indications from owners that it’s having an effect.
I can almost say that people are going to be even more excited about extending the health span of their pets than they are about extending life span of themselves. So you guys are doing really great work over there. I like to end every interview with a couple of fun questions
Kind of in the realm of your expertise.
Sure. Cool. So since all treatments of aging must go through clinical trials first and must go through the mouse trials first, as you mentioned, how likely is it that we’ll see an EMR tool mouse in the next, you know, 10 to 15?
Well, that’s a very good question. I would say it’s unlikely to see in a more tool now. I think it’s quite likely to see a mouse with a longevity of two or three times, you know, at the moment 30, 40% extension and lifespan is about where we’re hitting, not as personally to generally as an aging industry, it’s about 30, 40%. I think in the future, we’re going to see more like two, 300%. The concept of true immortality, I think is still slightly out of grasp. I think it’s achievable, but certainly not in the next 10 years.
Yeah. Well now mice, we gotta be very thankful for their sacrifice, but they’re definitely, they’re definitely, um, I mean, there’s so many tests going on with them that I would just imagine that eventually you’re going to see some very long live mice, just like you said, 200, 300% over the average life span
Direction of movement. Now, I mean, today, a lot of aging has been aging reduction or slowing of aging. There’s now significant movement into regeneration or regenerative medicine as well. I think that’s where the pivotal point will be when we actually reverse aging rather than slow aging. And we’re just on the cusp of that now. So it’ll be very interesting to see what happens in the next 5% years. It’s certainly the most exciting space you can be in, but the sign of your mortality, I think is a little beyond us at this stage.
Yeah. I mean, I’ve had some extremely exciting conversations with, uh, people that are focusing on rejuvenation, Ajax, Mike West from Ajax episode three is really just extremely exciting stuff. Really though, the science fiction level stuff, you just can’t even believe that what you’re hearing is true. So my next question, do you think that we’re going to cure? I mean, again, this is because we’re focusing on animals and the regulations are
So fast clinical trials go through so quickly.
Do you think that we will solve aging and animals before humans?
Yes. Is the short answer. I’m hoping that animal bio sciences contributes to that. And certainly we’re a front runner, but there’s also a lot of projects going on the dog aging project. Daniel promise those projects, the golden retriever lifetime study. I’m not sure if you’ve heard of that one. It’s called girls, they’re tracking. I think it’s three or 4,000 golden retrievers from puppy hood to death and they monitor everything about them, what they eat. Owner’s sending surveys, blood samples, hair samples, stool samples. And they’re analyzing that to understand the effects of aging and identifying cancer types. That’s one of their primary goals. So there’s quite a few companies. George Church is working on dog, dog rejuvenation as well. So I think it will be in the animal sector in probably dogs before it will be in humans. And that’s not so much because of the regulations. I think that’s just because you can prove it a lot faster and people are a lot more willing obviously to try new technologies on animals rather than try new technologies on humans.
Exactly. And so for the final question, what are you most excited about in the biotech industry in the next five, 10 and 15 years?
I would definitely say that reprogramming and rejuvenation is the most exciting. The reason being, as I mentioned, it’s actually a reversal that’s probably on the 15 year horizon. I would guess it might be sooner, but we’ll see how well it progresses. I think the other thing that’s most exciting is that aging research is now coming to the forefront of most people’s minds. Historically in the last 10 years ago, if you looked in the news, you would be lucky to see one IAG nautical a month or these days there’s aging articles coming out in both journal publications and in the mass media, which is showing this increased understanding of the fact that we can actually affect lifespan. So I think the most exciting thing is not necessarily the breakthroughs that are coming they’re coming anyway. And research is moving in leaps and bounds. What’s more exciting is the general public embracing these technologies and understanding that increasing health span is not a bad thing. If we can make our literally people age better and stay in the workforce longer and not have the severe associated costs with last weeks of life, which is where 80% of our medical funding goes, then, uh, you know, the most exciting thing is that people will start saying, yeah, I get this technology and I’m backing it. And investors and people are like, we’ll stand behind it. That’s the most exciting for me.
And hopefully, you know, the point when the government
Starts to back it as well, and he starts to get regulations behind it, that will be great. That will be great. So David has put out a, I guess a bit of a challenge to the world if you want that. I want to say that, uh, which is the first government that regulates or identifies aging as a disease as a treatable disease. I think there was some statement about longevity. Drugs will be a cost price only for that country or something along those lines. So don’t quote me on that. Exactly. A lot of governments around the world that are starting to talk about these concepts, but a lot of conservative governments that are completely shying away from it. So it’ll be very interesting to see how it evolves or the world health organization declared aging as a disease in 2018, mid 2018. We’ll see how far that spreads and how quickly that spreads.
Well, Nick, this was extremely, uh, super informative, very interesting conversation. You know, I love talking about all the different things that are going to be happening soon and especially when it comes to the animals that I’m sure somebody, people love. I think a lot of people are going to get a lot out of this conversation and a little bit of hope maybe that there maybe about a little bit longer than they were expecting. Yeah. That’s definitely a goal. Everybody who’s ever had a pet. If you could get a few more years, 30% more out of your dog, you know, those extra weekends, you know, who wouldn’t do that these days, as I said, with the humanization of pets, they’re like children and people want their pets around longer. Certainly. No I do. Hopefully we’ll, uh, we’ll be successful in keeping them around
James (36:31): If you got this far, I just want to say thank you so much for listening. If this was all interesting to you, I’d love to connect on Instagram and hear your feedback. I’ll also be posting clips from the latest episodes as well as anything else I find interesting about the biotech industry. You can find me on Instagram at simple biotech, and if you’re interested in the companies that I’m looking at and the companies that I’m excited about, connect with me on angel list at angel.co/jamesrule. That’s James R. U. H. L. E. thank you so much and be safe out there.