[Updated, 3/19/18, 6:32 p.m. See below.] Unity Biotechnology is trying to treat age-related diseases where it says many of them start: the production of the cellular proteins that lead to the deterioration associated with age. The startup is gearing up to test its first drug in humans and it now has $55 million to back the effort.
San Francisco-based Unity says its first target will be osteoarthritis. With the financing announced Monday, a Series C round, the company expects to start a clinical trial in the first half of the year.
Unity is trying to kill cells that are dormant but still secreting proteins that it says set off a cascade of activity in neighboring cells that results in aged or diseased tissue. The company says these dormant cells accumulate with age and eliminating them could slow, halt, or possibly even reverse diseases of aging. In 2016, Unity raised $116 million in a Series B round of financing to support its research. Last year, Unity tacked on another $35 million to extend the round. [A sentence was added to this paragraph to reflect additional financing.]
Unity developed its lead drug, UBX0101, to treat musculoskeletal disease. The company says the small-molecule drug targets the interaction of two proteins, MDM2 and p53. This approach has been studied for applications in cancer treatment, but Unity says disrupting the interaction of the two proteins can also trigger the elimination of the dormant cells that contribute to age-related disorders.
The latest round of funding brought on new investors EcoR1 Capital Fund, 6 Dimensions Capital, and Altitude Life Science Ventures. The financing also included investment from earlier investors Fidelity, Management & Research Company, Baillie Gifford, Partner Fund Management, Pivotal Alpha Limited, Invus Opportunities, ARCH Venture Partners, Venrock, Founders Fund, and the Longevity Fund.
Here’s more on Unity and its approach to treating diseases of aging.