Bezos backs startup aimed at delaying age-related diseases

Among the investors backing Unity Biotechnology, a startup that aims to develop drugs to extend the human lifespan, is Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, CNBC reports.

Unity Biotechnology was co-founded in 2009 by Nathaniel David, PhD and a team of biological sciences professors. Its research centers around senescent cells, older cells that have stopped dividing. Studies have shown these cells could be responsible for the onset of the numerous diseases associated with aging.

Much of the company's work seeks to target these cells and design drugs that could keep a person from contracting aging-related diseases for as long as possible.

"We don't need to invoke ideas about aging. We view it through the lens of specific disease," Dr. David, a molecular and cell biologist, told CNBC.

The startup has raised more than $300 million in funding — $85 million of which was raised after the company went public in May. One of the startup's investors is Mr. Bezos, whose company has explored several applications in healthcare for the senior population, and in January he hired top Boston-based Iora Health geriatrician Martin Levine, MD.

One of the first diseases Unity Biotechnology is studying is osteoarthritis. It is in a phase 1, government-approved safety trial with about 40 patients in multiple sites across the U.S.

"Osteoarthritis standard of care begins with ibuprofen, then steroids, and then most people's standard of care is just accepting it: You're old, that sucks, and you're now in pain for the rest of your life," Dr. David told CNBC. "But we think there's a better way, by looking through the lens of biological insight of why those diseases happen in the first place."

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