Your biweekly dose of all things exponential
Issue 5

How excited and enthusiastic are you about extending your healthy life span? After all, we all live once right? Or do we, for those multiple-lives theorists out there... In this edition, we cover a recent piece written by Dr Diamandis on the future of AI & longevity and how they’re converging. $100 ultrasound portable machine? If an EKG scanner can be built into our smart watches as Apple has done recently, why not ultrasound? What about using CRISPR to solve for addiction? Or rapid healing of wounds through reprogrammed skin cells? Regardless of whether one is a health & wellness geek or not, the longevity revolution has already moved from deceptive to disruptive as more and more players from startups to large pharma players enter the fray to redefine healthy human cognition and performance, and we’d be wise to keep a tab on this fast-moving and rapidly transforming industry. Happy reading!

Exponentially Yours,
Aman Merchant

Peter’s Perspectives

What if we could generate novel molecules to target any disease, overnight, ready for clinical trials? Imagine leveraging machine learning to accomplish with 50 people what the pharmaceutical industry can barely do with an army of 5,000. It’s a multibillion-dollar opportunity that can help billions. In 2018, the top 10 pharmaceutical companies alone are projected to generate over $355 billion in revenue. At the same time, it currently costs more than $2.5 billion (sometimes up to $12 billion) and takes over 10 years to bring a new drug to market. Nine out of 10 drugs entering Phase I clinical trials will never reach patients.

As the population ages, we don’t have time to rely on this slow, costly production rate. Some 12 percent of the world population will be 65 or older by 2030, and “diseases of aging” like Alzheimer’s will pose increasingly greater challenges to society. But a world of pharmaceutical abundance is already emerging. As artificial intelligence converges with massive datasets in everything from gene expression to blood tests, novel drug discovery is about to get >100X cheaper, faster, and more intelligently targeted.

In this blog, Peter discusses how a ‘super’ startup is leveraging AI in its end-to-end drug pipeline to extend healthy longevity through drug discovery and aging research.

Peter “Live”!

Every week, Peter video-captures for his community the most exciting new developments he comes across in his many interactions with different stakeholders from across the world. This week’s video is all about building great leadership teams in an exponentially charged world.

Collaborative Leadership in an Exponential Work Culture

Keith Ferrazzi is a well-known relational & collaborative sciences expert. He managed the turn-around of General Motors and is currently working with the World Bank-- think of him as the Tony Robbins for companies! How much do you think executives influence a company's culture? In an ideal world, what role do executives play in the day-to-day of your organization? With more ‘unicorn’ size companies emerging from this region, how well are they prepared to manage & leverage the interdependencies of leadership mindsets within an executive team?

Amazing Possibilities

What it is: Researchers from the University of Chicago recently used CRISPR to genetically engineer cocaine resistance into mice. After receiving the gene editing treatment, the subjected mice were less likely to seek out cocaine. The mice became immune to overdosing on amounts of cocaine that would kill mice without the treatment. To accomplish this feat, the researchers used the enzyme butyrylcholinesterase (BCHE), which naturally breaks down cocaine. Because this enzyme cannot be administered orally and is short-lived in the bloodstream, there’s no way to maintain the enzyme in high enough concentrations for it to effectively combat cocaine. To approach this, the researchers used CRISPR to modify skin cells (which were grafted onto the mice) to more readily secrete BCHE, thereby replenishing the rapidly broken down BCHE in the bloodstream.

Why it’s important: Extraordinary progress is being made every day in the biotech and genomics world. Earlier this month in Abundance Insider, we saw CRISPR gene editing to eradicate malaria-carrying mosquitoes. Prior to that, we saw CRISPR used to cure muscular dystrophy in dogs. Mitigating the effects of cocaine in mice may one day have profound applications for combating cocaine addiction in humans, saving countless human lives and helping many others overcome their addictions. What other diseases, disorders and addictions can researchers address in the CRISPR revolution?

What it is: Scientists in Japan have recently found a way to generate precursors to human egg cells in a dish with the sole ingredient of a woman’s blood cells. Researchers have already been successful in creating egg cells from mouse tail cells (viable for fertilization), and now, researchers like Mitinori Saitou at Japan’s Kyoto University are trying to replicate these methods for human gametes. After creating stem cells from human blood cells, Saitou and his team guided them to develop into “primordial” reproductive cells. And while at a very early stage of egg development, the nascent cells were kept alive for an unprecedented four months, developing into oogonia -- precursors of mature egg cells, which appear in the first trimester of pregnancy.

Why it's important: While not yet at the milestone of a mature human egg capable of being fertilized to create an embryo, the study is a tremendous leap towards one day achieving human “in vitro gametogenesis” and revolutionizing modern-day reproduction. “This is farther than anyone has ever gotten with human eggs before,” said Stanford’s Henry Greely. And while in vitro gamete production poses tremendous implications to reproduction and accelerated genetic screening in the long-term, many in the field already foresee current applications for the technology. With large numbers of developing reproductive cells, researchers could systematically test and probe how medicines or environmental conditions affect human eggs as well as the impact of chemotherapy, toxic chemicals or radiation.

What it is: University of British Columbia engineers recently built a new ultrasound transducer that can lower the cost of ultrasound to under $100. The patent-pending sensor is smaller than most bandages and can be powered by a smartphone. Conventional ultrasounds operate using a piezoelectric transducer; the UBC team synthesized a polymer resin (I.e. polymer capacitive micro-machined ultrasound transducers) to replace the expensive piezoelectrics. The sonograms produced from this new polymer-based transducer are as clear as traditional sonograms; in addition, the new polymer is flexible and can be built into a variety of wearable devices. “You could miniaturize these transducers and use them to look inside your arteries and veins,” said engineer Robert Rohling. “You could stick them on your chest and do live continuous monitoring of your heart in your daily life. It opens up so many different possibilities.

Why it's important: We are rapidly approaching a 1-trillion-plus sensor economy, where you’ll be able to know anything, anywhere, at anytime. A variety of sensors will augment our five biological senses with unthinkable data acquisition capabilities. Healthcare is one of the first areas that will benefit from sensors. Imagine a future where we no longer need to worry about curing cancer, because our personal tumor-seeking sensor-shell can detect early signs of cancer before cells even become cancerous.

What it is: Cutaneous ulcers are a pervasive problem affecting those with bedsores, burns, and chronic diseases like diabetes. Beyond the pain, they can lead to infections and even amputations. To speed up and create a more effective treatment, researchers at the Salk Institute have discovered a way to reprogram mesenchymal skin cells -- which help close wounds but cannot rebuild healthy skin -- into stem-cell-like basal keratinocytes, which are precursors to many different types of skin cells. After identifying a set of four proteins -- dubbed “reprogramming factors” -- the team applied a topical solution onto mesenchymal cells in a petri dish and later ulcers in mice. In just 18 days, the mesenchymal cells were transforming into normal skin cells, and 3 to 6 months later, the cells were functioning like normal skin with no visible scar tissue.

Why it's important: As the authors note, this initial proof of concept for the in-vitro regeneration of three-dimensional tissue “could be useful for repairing skin damage, countering the effects of aging and helping us to better understand skin cancer,” all of which point to an increased healthy lifespan.

Exponential Tips & Tricks

Looking to upgrade your creativity in a tech-driven world… Check out Lego Forma, a new, premium LEGO experience to help you re-engage with your creative side - running as an Indiegogo campaign.

Experience A360

This clip from A360 2018 has Keith Leonard exploring a cutting-edge approach in play for reshaping the healthy human life span.

Keith Leonard is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of UNITY Biotechnology and has been a recognized leader in ethical drug manufacturing and commercialization for more than 20 years. UNITY Biotechnology is developing therapeutics that increase healthspan by preventing, halting or reversing diseases of aging, and its initial focus is on creating senolytic medicines to selectively eliminate senescent cells and thereby treat age-related afflictions such as osteoarthritis, atherosclerosis, eye diseases, and kidney disease.

Want more conversations like this?

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