A young venture based in the Netherlands, Cleara Biotech, has raised seed money to pursue a new class of senolytic drug.
Senolytics target senescent cells, which accumulate throughout the body over the lifespan and contribute to various forms of age-related decline. Based in part on exciting results in mice showing that elimination of senescent cells can extend the healthspan and delay the onset of age-associated disease, senolytics have attracted a great deal of attention from pharmaceutical companies entering the aging space.
The new company’s efforts are based on founding observations published last year in Cell. The authors developed a peptide-based drug that interferes with an interaction between the tumor suppressor p53 and the transcription factor FOXO4 in senescent cells. In the presence of the peptide, p53 is excluded from the nucleus, triggering cell death. Importantly, the drug kills senescent cells exclusively while leaving healthy cells unharmed. In mice, the drug destroys senescent cells, delays tissue deterioration, and keeps the animals spry and cognitively intact much later in their lives than controls.
Over the next year, Cleara’s discovery operation—a public-private partnership involving three scientists, including two authors of that study and another expert on senescence—will focus on optimizing the peptide drug for a variety of clinical indications including both chronic and acute diseases. The company has not yet settled on the first application to test in the clinic, and this will depend to some extent on how lead development progresses over the near term.
Cleara’s founding investor is Apollo Ventures, whose portfolio is focused on development of “therapeutics to prevent age-related disease and extend healthy lifespan.”