For a decade, the Aging Research and Drug Discovery (ARDD) meeting has consistently united prominent academics, startups, pharmaceutical companies, investors, and academic journal editors who are instrumental in shaping the burgeoning longevity biotechnology industry. The conference originated in Basel, Switzerland, a city that serves as the headquarters for pharmaceutical giants like Roche and Novartis. In 2019, the University of Copenhagen assumed the mantle and relocated the event to Denmark. Since then, local academic luminary Professor Morten Scheibye-Knudsen, who heads the biology of aging lab, has worked relentlessly to establish Copenhagen as a global hub for aging research. By maintaining rigorous standards for academic speakers and meticulously selecting sponsoring startups, he has transformed the ARDD into the largest industry event in the longevity biotechnology sector. Remarkably, the event remained open for on-site attendance throughout 2020 and 2021, adopting a hybrid format that attracted over 3,000 online delegates. In 2023, ARDD is celebrating its 10th anniversary, and, to the organizers’ surprise, on-site attendance sold out a month in advance, with over 5,000 delegates participating online.
I have attended ARDD meetings since their inception, but this 10th anniversary is particularly noteworthy. The longevity biotechnology industry is clearly coming into its own, with more than 120 speakers, over 30 startups, and a host of investors and pharmaceutical companies convening at the University of Copenhagen. I will do my utmost to provide daily updates from the front lines.
While it is clear that the field of longevity biotechnology is rapidly expanding, it can not fully function without the active participation of the physicians. Therefore, the conference dedicated the entire first day to longevity medicine. Longevity medicine took a significant stride forward as the third and largest Longevity Medicine Day (LMD) at the ARDD 2023 was epic. This prestigious event gathered a remarkable assembly of experts in geroscience and its clinical applications, reflecting a commitment to pushing the boundaries of healthy aging. Organized and chaired by Dr. Evelyne Bischof, MD, PhD, MPH, facilitated and supported by conference chairs, the event served as a platform to bridge cutting-edge research with tangible clinical impact.
The event commenced with a welcome address from Dr. Evelyne Bischof, MD PhD of Renji Hospital of Jiaotong University Shanghai and Director of Sheba Longevity Department, setting the tone for an intellectually invigorating discourse. “We need to enable and facilitate the permeations of healthy longevity medicine into the academic hospital settings, to the “sick-care”, and develop recommendations, guidelines and minimal quality standards for longevity physicians, clinics and curricula. That is the mission of our Healthy Longevity Medicine Society” she said in her lecture on “Healthy Longevity Medicine – restoring the biological age of individual optimal performance”. Notably, the co-moderator of this year’s LMD was Michael Basson, the editor of Nature Medicine. He underscored the journal’s mission to engage with evidence-based medicine’s forefront, reinforcing the commitment to innovation and excellence.
In the first session of Longevity medicine lectures on Interventions, James Kirkland, MD, PhD, Professor of Aging Research Director, Robert and Arlene Kogod Center on Aging, shared insights on the geroscience RCT network, targeting cellular senescence and specifically illustrating novel senolytics compounds in the clinical setting, “more than 80 clinical gerotherapeutic intervention or observational studies are underway” he said. Thomas A. Rando, MD, PhD, Deputy Director, UCSL and previously Stanford Center on Longevity, elaborated on the translational research in stem cell aging, the influence on exercise on muscle rejuvenation, as well as the basic science of lifestyle interventions – providing a battery of objective RCT endpoints for longevity interventions. The quintessence of the reasoning behind the Economics of Longevity was brilliantly presented by Michael Ringel, Managing Director and Senior Partner at BCG: “The major way to extend from where we are is via geroscience… we need a stronger grassroot movement”.
“From geroscience to gerotherapeutics, we are on the right path. However, our biggest challenge is that there are many ways to target aging, and demand is outpacing supply. Many people could already benefit from maximizing their health, and having more clinics and physicians will pave a brighter path for all,” said Prof. Nir Barzilai of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, USA. In the second session on longevity medicine therapeutics, which covered applied geroprotective interventions, drug repurposing, and discovery, as well as randomized controlled trials (RCTs), Dr. Joan Mannick, Co-Founder and CEO of Tornado Therapeutics, mentioned, “mTOR inhibitors may offer the greatest benefit to the oldest adult population. More trials are needed, and they are underway.” Prof. Eric Verdin from the Buck Institute, USA, presented a novel DNA methylation clock resilient to changes in immune composition.
In the realm of clinical practice, Prof. Tzipora Strauss, Head of Sheba Longevity Department, setting shared insights on the first longevity department in an academic hospital Sheba Medical Center, where a cohort of patients will be enrolled for free and undergo longevity diagnostics and evidence-based interventions.
The longevity medicine day featured talks by the leaders of several prominent companies in the field. Jerry McLaughlin, CEO of Life Biosciences, opened the first session on longevity medicine interventions. The company is at the forefront of developing therapies targeting cellular senescence and other age-related mechanisms. During the lunch and learn panel on digital biomarker platforms in longevity medicine, Nawal Roy, Founder and CEO of Holmusk, presented insights into how digital biomarkers are revolutionizing longevity medicine. Jordan Shlain, Founder and Executive Chair of Private Medical, addressed the challenges of longevity medicine in primary care practice, offering a glimpse into the future of personalized healthcare. Gil Blander from InsideTracker presented longitudinal longevity data analysis, providing valuable insights and lessons from a decade of tracking biological markers.
The conference encompassed various facets of longevity medicine, including mental and behavioral health. Prof. Harold Pincus of Columbia University addressed challenges in the mental health in longevity as a domain, while Prof. Li Wenbin of Tiantan Hospital shed light on the lessons on senolytics from brain tumor clinical trials. Prof. Christoph Correll of Berlin Charite and Columbia University explored longevity in individuals with severe mental illness, underlining the potential to enrich both years and life. Prof. Christine Huang of the Hong Kong University delved into genetic underpinnings of aging and physical fitness. Various other distinguished speakers and supporters were present, enriching the day’s proceedings. The Healthy Longevity Medicine (HLMS) session, featuring clinical case sharing and moderated discussions, served as a pivotal moment. This session showcased a range of clinical cases in longevity medicine, emphasizing the importance of clinical trials. Professor Andrea B. Maier, Director of the Centre for Healthy Longevity at the National University of Singapore, co-moderated the HLMS session. Renowned for her contributions to evidence-based interventions aimed at extending health and lifespan, Maier is a significant voice in gerontology and plays a crucial role in translating research findings into clinical practice.
As the day concluded, attendees transitioned to the renowned Bar7, where discussions continued, setting the stage for the opening day of the 10th ARDD conference, which I look forward to covering in following articles.