What if a simple, locally-delivered therapeutic could enable our body to regenerate and heal itself?
Source: TEDMED 2016
CEO David Lucchino discusses the big idea behind Frequency: What if our body’s dormant stem cells could be activated to fight disease?
Our story begins in the labs of regenerative medicine visionaries Robert Langer, Sc.D., and Jeff Karp, Ph.D., at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard Medical School. With the amazing advances of gene therapy and gene editing as a point of inspiration, Langer and Karp were looking for a simpler, more streamlined solution to use the power of human cells and the body’s innate defenses and regenerative capabilities to heal the body and treat disease. They asked the question, “Can we achieve disease modifying benefits with a simple small molecule approach?” The idea revolved around taking cues from regenerative biology, and then applying carefully selected small molecules that can target relevant pathways to directly heal cells and tissues in place within the body. The process is intended to activate those cells in a non-systemic way that allows the body to heal itself without inflicting changes to the genetic code.
The search started by looking to nature. Certain species can regenerate and heal specific cells and tissues, whereas that capability remains biologically elusive to humans and other mammals. For example, some amphibians can regrow limbs and amphibians and birds can regrow hair cells in the inner ear if they’ve been damaged. Mammals have underlying progenitor cells in multiple areas of the body, but their regenerative capacity is dormant after development.
Knowing that natural cellular regeneration was possible in other species, our founders looked for similar molecular pathways by studying areas of active regeneration in the human body. The epithelium in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract regenerates itself approximately every five days. Even though there are dormant progenitors in many parts of the body, there was something special that causes these cells to regenerate in the GI tract, leading our founders to look for ways to ignite the regenerative capabilities in other areas of the body. Langer, Karp and Yin, along with other members of the Karp Lab, made a seminal discovery when they successfully activated the proliferation and then differentiation of Lgr5+ cells in the lab with cocktails of small molecule drugs.
Frequency Therapeutics was founded in 2015 to translate the breakthrough work of our founders into new treatments, where controlled tissue regeneration with locally delivered drugs could have profound therapeutic potential, launching a new era of regenerative medicine techniques.