Meet the Elysium team.
Elysium is a growing team of scientists, innovators, and creatives who care deeply about health and science. Our headquarters is in New York City.
The Science of Aging Is In Our DNA
Elysium’s co-founder and chief scientist, Dr. Leonard Guarente, has been studying aging for more than 30 years.
It started with baker’s yeast, or saccharomyces cerevisiae. Elysium co-founder and chief scientist Dr. Leonard Guarente had just finished his Ph.D. at Harvard and was opening a research lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). It was 1982, and his decision to focus on the science of why humans age was ahead of the curve: Most aging studies at the time used comparative biology to learn about the difference between old animals and young. Few scientists were trying to understand the genetic and molecular causes of aging.
Our job is to figure out ways to counteract the deterioration associated with aging.
So why did he start with yeast to understand aging in humans? Well, it turns out we share the same ancestor as yeast dating back about a billion years, and believe it or not, many really important genes (or very similar ones) found in yeast are also found in other organisms, including humans. They are “conserved” in evolutionary terms, which means they have universal functions in many or all species.
Dr. Guarente found a really important one called SIR2. It took him and his post-docs eight years. SIR2 was important because it controlled longevity.
In 1999, Dr. Guarente’s lab found that if they activated the SIR2 gene, yeast would live longer. Soon after this discovery, they found that SIR2 required a molecule called NAD+, which is found in all living cells, to function. Without NAD+, SIR2 did nothing.
In the years that followed it became clear how important this work was. There are SIR2-related genes that encode proteins called sirtuins in all organisms. Humans, it turns out, have seven of them. They’re found in different parts of the cell and they all do slightly different things, but they all require NAD+ and all are essential to human health.
“Sirtuins are kind of like an orchestra working together to produce a symphony, but each piece, each section, has its own role,” Guarente says. “Together you get a unified outcome, which we think is improved health.” At the time of Dr. Guarente’s original discovery there were a few hundred scientific papers on sirtuins. Now there are more than 12,000.
These discoveries about the role of sirtuins and NAD+ in health are the foundation for Basis.
Dr. Guarente’s lab at MIT continues to study aging with a wide lens. At Elysium he works with his co-founders, Eric Marcotulli and Dan Alminana, and the Scientific Advisory Board, to aggressively pursue a research agenda focused on translating findings from the field of aging into health products people can access in the near term.