EPITERNA was founded in 2022 to help pets and people live longer and healthier lives. We have developed a unique high-throughput platform to evaluate drugs and assess their effect on healthy lifespan. This journey has been made possible by closely working with Pia Michel and the team at
Prima Materia, whose aim is to help the most ambitious European entrepreneurs find technology solutions to society's most difficult problems. We know that living longer and healthier is possible
Ageing, and the decline in health and well-being that come with it, may seem inevitable. Yet in many species there are positive outliers: dogs, for example, live an average of just over 10 years, but longevity varies significantly between breeds and some dogs can live to be over 20. In humans, the average lifespan is 70-75 years, while the world’s oldest living person is 116.
Think about it – these lucky individuals get roughly twice as much life. And it’s not just more time: typically, they are remarkably unaffected by the chronic diseases that come with old age. They show that living longer and healthier lives is possible.
We know that ageing is the major risk factor for multiple diseases affecting both us and our pets, including dementia, cancer, frailty, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. However, this deterioration with age is not linear, like a car wearing out. Rather, the ageing process is malleable. Experiments have now demonstrated that we can slow down ageing and extend healthy lifespan in animals in the laboratory.
We are building EPITERNA to translate these discoveries into longer, healthier and happier lives – for companion dogs and cats, and for people.
We are developing therapies to increase healthy lifespan
EPITERNA, which I co-founded with
Kevin Perez, was born out of my 15 years as a scientist studying ageing. This included work during my PhD studying ageing in yeast, and later at the Salk Institute in California where I was one of the first to demonstrate how new therapeutic approaches like epigenetic reprogramming could extend the lifespan of mice. I then started my own laboratory at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland to continue studying how to slow down or reverse ageing at the cellular and molecular level.
Today, we are putting the science into practice at EPITERNA. We are grateful to count on the guidance of our strategic advisors such as Dr.
Matt Kaeberlein, Co-Director of The Dog Aging Project and CEO of Optispan; Dr. Richard Miller, Director of the Glenn Center for Biology of Aging Research at the University of Michigan and Principal Investigator at the Interventions Testing Program (ITP); and Dr. Johan Auwerx, Professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL). Their combined knowledge and expertise is supporting our team of researchers and engineers, who have built an unprecedented screening platform that can test the effect of any medicine on the health and lifespan of multiple animals.
Because we develop safe products that can be used soon, we are first focusing on evaluating approved medicines that veterinarians and doctors already prescribe to dogs, cats or people for the treatment of specific diseases.
We intentionally start with approved therapies – small molecule medicines that are typically given as tablets – because they check all the essential boxes:
Safety: When it comes to helping pets and people stay healthy for longer, safety is key. Instead of starting with new, unproven therapies, we are identifying new uses for the thousands of rigorously tested veterinary and human medicines that are already approved by regulators and are safe. Effectiveness: Some established small molecule drugs like the immunosuppressant rapamycin or the anti-diabetic metformin have already been shown in the laboratory to slow down ageing and extend lifespan. Similarly, we have already discovered other promising candidates in our discovery platform. Accessibility: We want our therapies to be simple to use and accessible to anyone. Small molecule drugs are easier to manufacture, distribute, and use than more complex therapies, making them more affordable and accessible to anyone. We focus on ageing, not individual age-related diseases
We believe that addressing ageing as the root cause of disease and physical decline, rather than treating specific age-related diseases, will have a more significant impact on human health and lifespan. For this reason, instead of limiting ourselves to one mechanism or pathway involved in the ageing process, our research platform is designed to identify any medicines that can safely extend lifespan and ‘healthspan’, the period of life spent free from disease.
EPITERNA’s innovative platform evaluates medicines that act at the molecular and cellular level in gold standard animal models of ageing research. We know that many of the mechanisms controlling the ageing process are conserved across different species, therefore we believe that the medicines that we discover might have higher chances of working in pets and people. We have already assessed hundreds of medicines in smaller animals and more than a dozen in larger ones, validating promising candidates from the literature and identifying previously unknown leads.
After one year of work, we have developed the capacity to evaluate thousands of medicines per year in yeast, worms, flies, fish and mice. Now we are working to increase our throughput by an order of magnitude over the next two to three years by further leveraging automation and technology.
We’ll start a clinical trial for dogs in 2024
Our goal is to translate our research to impact the health of people and their pets. EPITERNA is committed to scientific rigour, which means that all our products will undergo thorough clinical trials to guarantee their safety and efficacy. This presents challenges never faced before, so our team is designing clinical trials focused on longevity that can be run in a reasonable time at low cost.
We aim to start our first clinical trial for companion dogs in 2024 in Europe. Importantly, we don’t view pets as simply a stepping-stone to evaluate medicines that could eventually work for people. In fact, we intend to initiate clinical trials for people before launching our first products for companion animals.
I'm positive we can work collaboratively with regulatory agencies like the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to explore responsible ways to evolve our healthcare system towards preventative medicine.
Come join us
We believe we are building a European leader in one of the most important areas of Life Sciences, with the potential to revolutionise life and health for both pets and people.
We are a growing team of ambitious scientists, engineers, veterinarians, and doctors passionate about developing life-extending medicines. If you share the same mission and passion, come and