Celine Halioua dreams of one day stepping onto a Silicon Valley stage alongside a healthy 15-year-old Great Dane, nearly twice the breed’s current life expectancy. The young biotech entrepreneur is the founder and CEO of Loyal, a startup dedicated to slowing down the aging of dogs and giving them healthier years.
It is a beautiful dream that may soon become a reality. Halioua it has raised $58 million and currently has two drugs in development. In the next few years, he hopes to bring to market the first commercial drug to delay aging or extend lifespan. While his work focuses on dogs, he believes his research could eventually lead to similar drugs for humans.
Extend life is possible
the The US Food and Drug Administration does not yet recognize aging as a treatable condition, making it difficult for scientists like Halioua to get life-prolonging drugs approved. However, the proof that it is possible to increase longevity already exists in the world of laboratory animals. Studies of worms, flies, and mice have increased and even doubled the lifespan of these species.
But dogs make more compelling subjects than lab rats. Canine research is cheaper than human trials, and their shorter lifespans mean faster trial results. Plus, the pampered lifestyle dogs enjoy makes them much more relatable than bugs and rodentswhich Halioua believes will put her in a good position to expand her research from cubs to people.
Fans of older dogs may already be familiar with some of Halioua’s study volunteers. Many are former residents of Muttville Senior Dog Rescue, a unique sanctuary in San Francisco with a lovable social media presence. Loyal works with the Muttville staff to recruit older dogs for Halioua’s two aging studies.
The Texas native is an animal lover and dog mom to Wolfie, an adopted husky she describes. as its co-founder and chief Loyal evangelist. company The slogan is also very appropriate: “Save the dogs, save the world.”
the magic pills
While there are other companies working on canine aging studies, their medications target specific ailments or symptoms of aging rather than slowing down the entire process. Halioua’s team has identified a compound that they believe will specifically help giant breed dogs by slowing their accelerated aging. A second compound could reduce cognitive decline and kidney problems in older dogs of all sizes.
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Loyal is currently investigating markers of aging in dogs’ DNA using 2,000 canine volunteers and preparing for clinical trials of its two drugs. While details are still under wraps, Halioua says both have performed well when given to lab dogs. She plans to launch a full clinical trial next year in hopes of getting FDA approval.