As billionaires race to fund anti-aging projects, a much-discussed trial goes overlooked

“[Nir] Barzilai, the head of the Institute for Aging Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and scientific director for AFAR — the American Federation for Aging Research — has for more than a decade been leading the charge to test the idea of using drugs to extend human healthspan.

In 2013, he and two other researchers got a grant from the National Institutes of Aging to develop a roadmap to conduct, for the first time in history, a clinical trial that targets aging. They planned to test metformin, a drug that had been approved in the ’90s for treating diabetes, and that was shown in epidemiological studies to prevent against conditions like heart attacks, cancer, and Alzheimer’s. It also turned out to be very safe, with few, generally mild side effects. And it’s dirt cheap: just six cents. per dose. [..]

Barzilai’s plan was to launch a new kind of gold-standard trial, designed to prove that the onset of multiple chronic diseases, or comorbidities, associated with aging can be delayed by a single drug: metformin. The ambitious effort aimed to track 3,000 elderly people over five years to see if the medicine could hold off cardiovascular disease, cancer, and cognitive decline, along with mortality. [..]

“Those big billionaires, they want moonshots, they want a scientific achievement that will make people say ‘wow,’” said Barzilai. “TAME [Targeted Aging with Metformin trial (approved by the FDA, but never funded)] is not a moonshot. It’s not even about scientific achievement really, it’s more about political achievement. Metformin is a tool to get aging as an indication.”

Like many other industry players and academics STAT spoke with, [co-founder and CEO of Cambrian Biopharma James] Peyer believes the TAME trial could be a paradigm-shifting pilot experiment and create a framework for biotechnology companies to follow in the future. “If we had more knowledge from a philanthropically run trial with a really safe molecule, that would be a boon for the whole field. It would be huge. But it’s been more than six years since the FDA gave a green light. It should almost be done by now,” Peyer said.”

Full article, M Molteni, STAT, 2022.8.9