Transhumanism, organ on chip & fight against aging by Guilhem Velvé Casquillas
Guilhem Velvé Casquillas gave a talk for Medicen to explain his projects in biotechnologies, entrepreneurship, microfluidics, organs on chip and more especially, with the Long Long Life project and the fight against aging.
This is the transcript of the video.
Host – Let’s leave pure diagnosis for a more disruptive technological innovation, microfluidics, with the Elvesys Microfluidics Innovation Center, and Guilhem Velvé Casquillas who is joining us and has six minutes to tell us of his microfluidics research projects. He wants to create a Microfluidics Valley. He has big plans. Let’s listen to you.
Guilhem Velvé Casquillas – Thank you. My name is Guilhem Velvé Casquillas and I am the CEO of the Microfluidics Innovation Center. First off, I am delighted to be talking before you today. I hope that after the presentation we can spark great conversations or even collaborations, whether we are entrepreneurs, doctors, journalists or just anyone, I am open to anything.
I will present a pet subject of mine, somewhat controversial as you will see: the fight against aging. At first, we will see how biotechnologies might drastically increase the life expectancy of the human species. Then, we will see how microfluidics and organs on chip might speed up this revolution even more.
If you look at the past 30,000 years, you will notice that human life expectancy remained the same, except over the the past 150 years. You might know it already, we gained 6 hours of life expectancy every 24 hours over the past 150 years. Today, the main limitation to longer lives are aging-related diseases. However, if we simplify, aging is only a genetic self-destruction program starting around the age of twenty. It leads to a sad and certain death about a hundred years later, longevity is about 120 years long. Today’s big question is this: can we, in the 21st century, reprogram this self-destruction program? I only have six minutes, so I will make it short.
Biotechnologies & entrepreneurship
Biotechnologies, an ongoing revolution that you know well, could give us some promising leads in that respect. We won’t gain 6 extra hours of life every day, but a dozen, or even, one day, 18 or 24. This would corroborate what certain doctors and scientists say: that in this generation or maybe the next, some people could become virtually amortal.
And now, more on us and our Microfluidic Valley. We all are former researchers, now entrepreneurs. We created 3 innovative microfluidics companies, they are very profitable, they are doing well and I’m glad.
We launched a dozen of R&D projects for now with about 30 European partners. We double our number of R&D projects every year since 2011, they span over many topics: stem cells culture, genetic detection of pathogens, organs on chips, and I heard about genetic big data last month… And what exactly are microfluidics? Microfluidics is a technology allowing you to miniaturize medical analysis to fit on a chip, like we did with electronics and microprocessors. And why do we set up so many companies? We are convinced that microfluidics could be the backbone of the next biotech and NBIC revolution. We are trying to create, in France, the foundations of a Microfluidics Valley – or at least to take part in it. Also, I love setting up companies, so I do. And I will continue to.
Let’s get back to aging. There are many aging causes: telomere shortening, unfolded protein response, tired mitochondria and stem cells… …and so on. Today, despite the great R&D acceleration in this field, the jigsaw pieces don’t fit together yet. Aging thus remain very hard to treat. There are currently three generations of anti-aging solutions. Healthy lifestyle, diet, vitamins are familiar. Then come the usual drugs, that compensate for instance the age-related drop in the levels of a certain molecule in your body, such as NAD+ precursors for those who use them – and then there are the third generation treatments, still being developed: gene, monogene, multigene or cell therapy. The latter directly affects the genome by editing it, to edit in turn our self-destruction program. Six minutes is a short time!
I personally think there will be no miracle pill that stops aging, but that is my view only, although I think that some people from this generation or the next one will reach their aging extraction speed. They will gain about 30 years of life expectancy, then maybe 50, and 100 – making right the scientists who think amortals already are among us.
The main drawback in aging research is that we cannot wait 100 years to see if a treatment is working. That is where microfluidics enter the picture. It allows for very controlled, massively parallelized cell cultures. If we cultivate human stem cells on microfluidics chips, we can imitate human organs and link them together and make what we call organs on chips.
With the correct metrology of aging, those organs on chip would allow for a new generation of treatments every 10 years, either by testing molecules in labs at the fundamental research level, or by bringing forth pre-clinical testing by replacing animal testing and erasing its ethical concerns. Most importantly, we could test the millions of combined compounds there are for multigene therapy, which will soon be here, I hope.
Long Long Life
Let’s talk about our newest pet project, Longlonglife.org, which is not a company and doesn’t even aim to be profitable. We decided to put online, for free, a summary of all the main research on aging, worldwide, together with benefit/risk cheat sheets for every treatment on the market. This includes vitamins, all the way to gene therapy. Why do this? I think that 2 types of people will fully benefit from the latest innovations in the field of aging: immensely rich people, and immensely educated people. This project gives anyone the possibility to be immensely educated.
I would like to thank Medicen, because today we have projects that can cost several millions of euros and we need to sit at a table with all the necessary partners to get there. Medicen gives us that opportunity, and allows me to talk before you today, so don’t hesitate to come and see me, whether you do or don’t agree with me, want to foster synergies, which is my job: foster synergies.
Thank you all.