SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 27, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- UNITY Biotechnology, Inc. ("UNITY"), a privately held biotechnology company creating therapeutics that prevent, halt, or reverse numerous diseases of aging, today announced the closing of a $116 million Series B financing.
Coincident with the financing, UNITY announced that Keith Leonard, 25-year biotech industry veteran and current executive chairman, will take on the role of leading UNITY as CEO. Founder and previous CEO Nathaniel "Ned" David, Ph.D., will become the company's president and focus on further developing the company's biology platform. Mr. Leonard brings to UNITY a wealth of leadership experience, including 13 years at Amgen. Most recently, he was CEO of KYTHERA Biopharmaceuticals, a company he co-founded with Ned David that was acquired by Allergan for $2.1 billion in late 2015.
The UNITY Series B financing ranks among the largest private financings in biotech history and features new investments from longtime life science investors ARCH Venture Partners, Baillie Gifford, Fidelity Management and Research Company, Partner Fund Management, and Venrock. Other investors include Bezos Expeditions (the investment vehicle of Jeff Bezos) and existing investors WuXi PharmaTech and Mayo Clinic Ventures. Proceeds from this financing will be used to expand ongoing research programs in cellular senescence and advance the first preclinical programs into human trials.
"We are incredibly fortunate to have attracted this powerful syndicate of visionary investors to support our mission of building a science-driven company focused on attacking diseases of aging and lengthening healthspan," Leonard said. "I couldn't pass up this opportunity to work with Ned and his amazing team here at UNITY on such an important endeavor."
"UNITY pairs a huge market opportunity with highly compelling biology and a proven and experienced management team. We added deep financial backing to match the potential," said Robert Nelsen, UNITY board member and co-founder and managing director of ARCH Venture Partners, UNITY's founding investor.
The financing announcement follows the publication of research that further demonstrates the central role of senescent cells in disease. The paper, written by UNITY co-founders Judith Campisi, Ph.D., and Jan van Deursen, Ph.D., and published today in the journal Science1, describes the central role of senescent cells in atherosclerotic disease and demonstrates that the selective elimination of senescent cells holds the promise of treating atherosclerosis in humans. In animal models of both early and late disease, the authors show that selective elimination of senescent cells inhibits the growth of atherosclerotic plaque, reduces inflammation, and alters the structural characteristics of plaque such that higher-risk "unstable" lesions take on the structural features of lower-risk "stable" lesions.
"This newly published work adds to the growing body of evidence supporting the role of cellular senescence in aging and demonstrates that the selective elimination of senescent cells is a promising therapeutic paradigm to treat diseases of aging and extend healthspan," said Jamie Dananberg, M.D., UNITY's chief medical officer. "We believe that we have line of sight to slow, halt, or even reverse numerous diseases of aging, and we look forward to starting clinical trials with our first drug candidates in the near future."
The publication follows research published earlier this year by UNITY co-founders in Nature2 and Nature Medicine3 and represents the growing body of work illuminating the promise of treating human diseases via the selective elimination of senescent cells.
About Cellular Senescence and Senolytic Medicines
Healthy cells that experience stress can enter a state known as cellular senescence. In this state, cells stop dividing and profoundly alter their metabolism, appearance, and interactions with their environment. Cellular senescence is a critical anti-cancer system, as it stops potentially damaged cells from growing out of control. However, senescent cells can accumulate in the body as we age, secreting growth factors, proteases, and inflammatory factors that disrupt normal tissue function. This may be a contributor to the chronic inflammation observed in many age-related diseases.
Based on recent discoveries in the rapidly advancing field of cellular senescence, UNITY is developing a new class of therapies for diseases of aging called senolytic medicines. These medicines are designed to selectively eliminate senescent cells linked to diseases of aging, such as osteoarthritis, glaucoma, and atherosclerosis. Recent studies published in Science, Nature, and Nature Medicine demonstrate how the selective elimination of senescent cells may prevent, delay, or even reverse disease of aging.
About UNITY Biotechnology
UNITY Biotechnology is developing therapeutics that increase healthspan by preventing, halting or reversing diseases of aging. UNITY's 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. Backed by a group of visionary investors, UNITY's world-class management team has experience building companies and developing medicines together: the team has collectively moved more than 90 therapeutic candidates into human clinical trials and developed 13 FDA-approved medicines. UNITY's mission is to build a future in which it doesn't hurt to be old — a future in which people stay healthy and mobile long into old age. More information is available at www.unitybiotechnology.com.
1Childs BG, Baker DJ, Wijshake T, Conover CA, Campisi J, van Deursen JM. Senescent intimal foam cells create a proatherogenic microenvironment throughout atherosclerosis. Science. 2016.
2Baker DJ, Childs BG, Durik M, Wijers ME, Sieben CJ, Zhong J, et al. Naturally occurring p16(Ink4a)-positive cells shorten healthy lifespan. Nature. 2016;530(7589):184–9.
3Chang J, Wang Y, Shao L, Laberge R, Demaria M, Campisi J, et al. Clearance of senescent cells by ABT263 rejuvenates aged hematopoietic stem cells in mice. Nature Medicine. Nature Publishing Group; 2015;22(1):1–9.
SOURCE UNITY Biotechnology