Yes, aging may be inevitable, but Leonard Guarente ’74 believes we can slow it down. With more than 34 years studying aging as director of the MIT Glenn Lab for the Science of Aging, Guarente says the key is pinpointing the factors present in youthful cells that promote cellular maintenance and determining ways to activate these mechanisms.
In 2013, Guarente started Elysium Health with co-founders Eric Marcotulli and Dan Alminana in an effort to bring products to market that could improve health based on his findings. His solution? Nutraceuticals—supplements created by pure forms of molecules found in nature.
The first supplement released by Elysium, Basis, contains two important molecules that Guarente’s research has determined to be key factors in promoting longevity. The first is a chemical precursor to nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, or NAD, a compound present in all living cells and a necessary metabolic compound for maintaining health maintenance. The second is pterostilbene, a compound that is almost identical—though proven to be more effective—than the more well-known resveratrol, a compound with health benefits related to aging that is commonly found in things like red wine and dark chocolate. “The novelty was to combine the two molecules,” says Guarente. “And then to find a way to produce them so that we could have pure compounds in the products. That took a while but we found a production facility that could do it.”
Basis was first released for sales in February 2015 after initial human trials, additional trials for safety and efficacy began in January 2016. Run by an independent group, these trials will result in a report, slated to be published in late 2016, that is expected to expand the safety data and begin to test efficacy in humans.
The trials, placebo-controlled and double-blind, will measure markers of good health like blood glucose, lipids, levels of inflammation, sleep and energy, as well as tests based on physical capacity. “It is imperative that we do this and it will really set us apart from almost anybody out there in the dietary supplement area, making us more like a drug company in terms of scientific rigor.”
A clinical trial isn’t the only factor adding to their credibility. They also have a team of more than two dozen scientists, including six Nobel Laureates, and a focus on quality control. Elysium is creating a new breed of supplement companies, says Guarente. “It’s an unmet need. Our challenge is to identify the right products and be as rigorous as possible in testing them.”
Elysium is also planning to release two new supplements in the coming year. “A lot of our customers are people who really want to take ownership of their own health maintenance and they want to be proactive in health,” says Guarente. “They want to learn from us and we try to provide them with as much information as possible.”