By Monika Ghosh and Sharon Lewis This article is the last of a four-part Tech’s Year in Review series reviewing developments across industries in 2020. It discusses the world of healthtech and biotech, foodtech and agritech, and sustainability. This article is the last of a four-part [...]
Gero’s Series A will help further develop the proprietary AI platform to identify treatments for aging-related and other diseases
Singapore-based Biotech startup Gero, which develops new drugs for aging and other disorders using artificial intelligence (AI), has secured US$2.2 million in a Series A funding round led by Belarus-based Bulba Ventures, with participation from previous investors and serial entrepreneurs, the startup announced in a press release yesterday.
Co-founder of Bulba Ventures Yury Melnichek joined Gero’s Board of Directors as part of the deal.
Gero had previously raised an undisclosed seed round from Bulba Ventures in May last year, and the latest investment brings Gero’s total funding to over $7.5 million, according to the statement.
The fresh funds will be used to further develop Gero’s proprietary AI platform for analyzing clinical and genetic data to identify treatments for diseases like chronic aging-related diseases, mental disorders, and others, according to the press release.
Founded in 2012, Gero’s experts acquired large datasets of medical and genetic information from hundreds of thousands of people from biobanks and created a proprietary database of blood samples collected throughout the last 15 years of the patients’ lives, the startup claims.
Using this data, Gero’s AI-powered platform helped determine the protein that circulates in everyone’s blood, and whose removal or blockage should lead to rejuvenation, says the statement.
“Gero collects large datasets of biomedical data (including clinical histories and genomics) of animals and humans and applies advanced machine learning methods and AI to discover the underlying reasons for human aging,” said Dr. Nir Barzilai, Director and leading aging researcher of the Einstein-Institute for Aging Research and Professor of Medicine and Genetics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
“The project’s team works with key experts in the field of biology of aging and clinical medicine, and this provides answers to the most important practical questions and translates the received knowledge into medical technologies to combat aging,” he added.
Gero collaborates with researchers from global institutions including the Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Edinburgh, National University of Singapore, and Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center to develop new therapies.
The startup conducted experiments at the National University of Singapore where mortality-delay or life-extension and functional improvements were observed among aged animals after a single experimental treatment, the statement claims.
Gero claims that in the future its new drug could enable patients to recover after a stroke and aid cancer patients in their fight against accelerated aging—a common side-effect of chemotherapy.
Gero Founder Peter Fedichev said, “This [investment] will help us attain the necessary knowledge at the junction of biological sciences and AI/ML technologies that is necessary for the radical acceleration of drug discovery battling the toughest medical challenges of the 21st century.”
“We hope that the technology will soon lead to a meaningful healthspan extension and quality of life improvements,” he added.
Gero’s platform is currently also being used to develop new drugs and therapies, reposition existing drugs, forecast chronic toxicity, support clinical decisions, as well as for finding potential therapies for COVID-19, including those that could reduce mortality from complications related to aging, the statement says.
Bulba Ventures Co-Founder Yury Melnichek said, “Gero’s insights and know-how when it comes to using big data and machine learning in biology is creating new opportunities in the search for cures of diseases that were previously considered incurable, primarily for aging.”
Gero’s efforts to achieve life-extension through drugs is not the first attempt though. Pharmaceutical giant Novartis and Calico, a subsidiary of Google’s parent company Alphabet have made similar attempts.
According to a report by U.S. non-profits AARP and Oxford Economics, the longevity economy, or the contributions from people aged over 50 years garnered $7.6 trillion in economic activity in the U.S. in 2015.
While the market size is huge, the main challenge is acquiring customers, since aging is not a disease in itself.
“Biology is hard and aging is not a disease and hence, you cannot reasonably expect to get registration of drugs aimed specifically against aging in a general population,” Fedichev told Tech In Asia.
Therefore, for clinical trials, the startup specifically focusses on vulnerable people like cancer patients dealing with accelerated aging symptoms. Gero believes that in the long run, its anti-aging therapeutics will help improve quality of life after treatment for cancer patients.
“Using cancer-supportive care as an entry point for anti-aging therapy should let us tap into a US$20-billion-a-year—and quickly growing—market and simplified regulatory procedures,” he added.
Gero Team Left to right: Preclinical Development Expert Olga Burmistrova, Founder and CEO Peter Fedichev, and Data Science and Bioinformatics Expert Konstantin Avchaciov
Header image courtesy of Gero