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10 things we learned from Liz Parrish’s Reddit AMA


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10 things we learned from Liz Parrish’s Reddit AMA

by Ricky Piper Published on 12th Oct 2015

by Ricky Piper Published on 12th October 2015

BioViva made headlines last week after announcing that they had become the first company to administer anti-aging gene therapy on a human subject. But missing from the press release was exactly how this would work, the likelihood of its success, and the consequences. How better to address this then, than to hear from ‘Patient 0’ herself, Liz Parrish, the company’s CEO who will be undertaking the treatment.

Yesterday (October 11), she took part in a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything), answering a range of questions submitted by Reddit users seeking to find out more about this supposedly pioneering study.

Here are ten things we learned from Liz Parrish’s Reddit AMA. 

1. What exactly have they done?

According to BioViva’s prior research, they use AAV (Adeno-Associated Virus) as a vector, with a therapeutic transgene inserted (for example, CRISPR/Cas9-mediated). This viral vector, not known to be pathogenic to humans, is then injected into various parts of the body, where the vector injects the gene into a cell nucleus (i.e. transduces the cell). This influences the production of protein, becoming based upon the transgene - treating the disease.

One month ago, Parrish was given a course of injections by doctors which she says were both “inter muscular, sub-dermal and systemic.” The hope is that the treatment already tested on animals produces positive results in humans: “The gene therapies on my body are to measure the effects on humans. There is plenty of animal research to support these gene therapies but no one was conducting human tests.”

2. How will they know if it has worked?

Parrish will be monitored monthly, and then conclusively after one year using “visual biomarkers, MRI and a panel of blood and tissue testing including work on telomere length with Spectracell and Life Length and epigenetic testing.” According to Parrish, “if you don’t look younger then we have failed.” In this regard, they hope for the same reduction in grey hair and more youthful appearance observed when telomerase has previously been administered in mice.

3. Has she experienced any side effects so far?

One month on, she claims to have experienced no side effects, is sleeping well, and has “lots of energy.”

4. If it works, what is the next step?

If successful, Bioviva aim to raise funding in order to carry out further clinical trials. To circumvent the ‘FDA barrier’ these will be conducted offshore.

5. So how much does it cost?

Parrish concedes that the therapy is currently "cost prohibitive at this time for most people" - although they are working to get those costs down.

6. But how will they get these costs down?

The goal is “to build laboratories that will have the mission of a cGMP product at a reduced cost.” Parrish makes the comparison with the exponential growth of faster and cheaper computers: “Gene therapy technology is much like computing technology. We had to build the super computer which cost $8 million in 1960. Now everyone has technologies that work predictably and at a cost the average person can afford.” By working with ‘governments and insurance providers’ they aim to ensure the same affordability for anti-aging gene therapy treatments.

7. So if a success, when will it be universally available?

Parrish states that BioViva aim to bring the treatment to the world as “quickly and safely as Possible.” She estimates that this will take just 3-5 years: “If the results are good we hope to have something to the general public, that is cost acceptable, in 3-5 years. What you will get then will be vastly more predictable and effective that what we are doing today and at a cost you or your insurance can cover .”

8. But do such treatments increase the risk of cancer?

A general concern, particularly for treatments amending telomere length is that this heightens the risk of cancer, but Parrish is unconcerned: “In animal models both FST and hTERT haven't increased the risk of cancer. We expect to see the same result on myself, and to that effect we are measuring all known cancer biomarkers.”

9. And why the decision to undergo the therapy herself?

At 45 years old, Parrish claims that she already has “aging as a disease” so was happy to “step up.” Similarly, she claims that undergo the treatment herself rather than experimenting on another patient was “the only ethical choice.”

10. What can we expect from an ageless future?

Parrish dismisses claims that prolonged human lifespan will ultimately have adverse effects such as overpopulation and depletion of resources: “As lifespan increases fertility rates go down all over the world. Humans will create better technology and space travel will increase. These are all good signs for the future.”