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Drug Discovery for Age-related disease

We’re building a new kind of platform for discovering geroprotective drugs: in vivo phenotypic screens in model organisms. We use high-resolution video to track the small crustacean Daphnia magna throughout its lifespan, enabling us to screen for drugs that extend healthspan.

 Addressing the root causes of aging

Age-related diseases like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s share common underlying causal mechanisms. As we age, basic cellular processes go awry throughout the body. These fundamental processes underlying aging are evolutionarily conserved across many species, and can be modified genetically or pharmacologically in animals. This has given rise to the goal of a geroprotector, a drug that can prevent the diseases of aging in general.


 
 
 

Daphnia as model organisms

Experiments on invertebrates are a useful “middle ground” between in-vitro and mammalian studies. They allow us to test whether drugs work in living organisms, and give us early toxicity data, before investing the time and expense into experiments in mice.

Daphnia, commonly known as water fleas, are pond-dwelling zooplankton that are ideal for pharmacology screens. They’re highly sensitive to drugs in their water, and are standard model organisms for ecological toxicology. Daphnia are short-lived (median lifespan 30 days) making lifespan studies tractable.

 
 
 
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 High-Content video Phenotypic Screens

Traditional drug development is a top-down process: from drug targets to candidate molecules that bind to them. But most first-in-class drugs actually come from phenotypic screens: searching through large chemical libraries for compounds with a desired biological effect. We believe that intervening in a process as complex as aging requires a bottom-up, phenotypic approach.

Video data of Daphnia allow us to capture complex phenotypes related to healthspan: activity, behavior, physical morphology. Using deep learning, we can identify features predictive of age and mortality. These features will allow us to identify drugs which extend healthy lifespan and avoid toxicity.