Life Length company telomeres know real biological age: "now there is a lot of life expectancy, but from an age you live without health" - Maria Blasco, current director of the National Center for oncological research (CNIO), is one of the most recognized scientists in the science of anti-aging for her area of specialization in telomeres.
Telomeres are the ends of chromosomes and their length has been considered one of the most important biomarkers of aging and diseases associated with it.
With the support of the Botín Foundation, the advances that Blasco had made in the CNIO ended up being the basis of the spin-off Life Length, a startup that was born in 2010 as the first biotech capable of measuring telomeres with Steve Matlin in charge.
” We have a license for our telomeric analysis test that allows us to work in more than 65 countries, " Matlin said in an interview with Business Insider Spain.
In fact, Life Length, which has its laboratories located in the Madrid Science Park, is the only accredited laboratory in the United States, says the CEO of the longevity startup, an industry that is attracting more and more interest.
The global anti-aging market is estimated to exceed $ 271 billion by 2024. In fact, in 2018 investors invested more than $ 850 million in aging and longevity startups, according to CB Insights.
” Nobody wants to grow old, " Matlin says. The CEO rejects the possibility (at least in the short term) of living 200 years, but says that “it is feasible to reach 70 years as healthy as 30"”
Life Length company telomeres know real biological age
” Now there is a lot of life expectancy, but from an age you live without health, " Matlin reflects, who says that people are not so afraid of death as to suffer or lose autonomy at the end of life.
“Our company wants to help maintain quality of life, not just hope, " says the CEO.
With that philosophy in mind, the first product that developed Life Length was a telomere and biological age test that, by analyzing the length of your telometers can establish your actual biological years.
The results have important applications in the field of personalized medicine and preventive medicine, since it is known that lifestyle can influence the length of telomeres.
However, Matlin acknowledges that sales, which are not covered by any insurer, are limited because it is difficult to understand the importance of prevention. “We have a vision of medicine as something that cures and right now we lack a drug that allows us to regulate our aging,” he says.
However, insists the CEO, when the disease comes “ " we regret not having had more information earlier with which we could have prevented”.
Matlin does not lose hope that at some point some of the large companies with which they have collaborations will include the analysis among their services, but, for the moment, its test is optional and is aimed at individuals. For now, they only find their niche in consumers "very aware of their health care".
Together with that, the CEO points out that undertaking in Spain “ "especially in the field of technology", is very complicated. “Times are longer and getting funding is very difficult."
The situation forced Life Length to seek "clearer clinical and commercial applications," Matlin recalls.
Telomeric science has great potential in oncology and the company has initiated observational clinical trials for prostate cancer, a type that affects between 15% and 20% of men worldwide and for which there is no noninvasive diagnostic test that allows an early diagnosis.
The tests that end up diagnosing cancer are biopsies, which can then have long-term consequences, says the CEO of Life Length. The biggest problem is that much of these biopsies turn out to be unnecessary: approximately 75% of all positive PSA results (the previous analysis) end up with negative biopsies that find no signs of cancer.
Matlin recalls that each biopsy has a cost of about 2,000 euros and points out that the problem lies in the fact that the test before the biopsy is not effective in the diagnosis.
Right now Life Length is in the final stage of trials of a test that allows to reduce biopsies by a third and does not miss cases of cancer, says the CEO. The results of the studies have been published earlier this year in the journal Nature and the company is negotiating approval with regulatory agencies with the intention of marketing in 2021.
Phase 2 was funded with EUR 3.1 million from the European Union Horizon 2020 funds.
Without a final label, Matlin estimates that the price of the test will be around 200 euros, which will mean an immense reduction in costs compared to the 2,000 cost of a biopsy.
“We estimate that the potential market for prostate cancer will be about 1 billion euros a year, " estimates the CEO, who acknowledges that Life Length wants a small percentage of that pie.
In addition to these sectors, Life Length also has Research developed in the line of male fertility and another of its business lines includes collaboration large pharmacists who use their tests to validate and test the effectiveness of their drugs.
The coronavirus pandemic paralyzed Life Length's ongoing clinical trials, delaying the arrival on the market (scheduled for the end of this year) of the prostate cancer test.
However, the health crisis has also been an unexpected line of business for the company. ” Of course we want to contribute as much as we can to alleviate the crisis, “says Matlin, who also acknowledges that coronavirus has offered a new way”to get the company going."
Thus, Life Length laboratories perform tests of COVID-19, which the CEO claims they have on the same day. “We are doing hundreds of PCR daily” " he says.
The company also performs serology tests using ELISA tests, as well as rapid tests for the detection of antibodies.
Looking ahead, Matlin recognizes the potential of telomere-based science to apply several sectors. They already have some oncology projects, such as diagnosing lung cancer through a blood test or predicting how aggressive a chronic leukemia will be to help determine the treatment.
Thinking about what could be their first star product on the market with prostate cancer diagnosis, it is clear that Matlin does not close the door to any possibility.
The first obvious market would be Spain, since several hospitals in the country have participated in clinical trials, but in the face of a possible expansion, the CEO of Life Length assures that there are open talks for both alliances, licenses or even a possible purchase of the whole company.
Life Length company telomeres know real biological age