December 6, 2016 / 10:01 PM / 3 years ago

Anti-aging pill maker Elysium Health raises $20 million

(Reuters) - Dietary supplement maker Elysium Health Inc said it raised $20 million in funding from a group of investors led by venture capital firm General Catalyst.

Elysium, which claims its product repairs cells damaged by natural health decline, was founded in 2015 and counts seven Nobel laureates in its advisory board.

The product, called Basis, enhances levels of an enzyme known as NAD+, which is critical for cellular function. As we age, NAD+ levels naturally decline.

Studies have shown that if you restore NAD+ levels in an old animal, you can help it live longer, Chief Scientist and founder Leonard Guarente, who also leads the Science of Aging Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told Reuters.

On Tuesday, Elysium released the results of an eight-week study testing Basis in 120 healthy older volunteers. Data showed that the product was able to safely and sustainably elevate NAD+ levels. [nPnbT2SkZa]

However, Basis, which comprises two naturally occurring ingredients, is sold as a health supplement. Therefore, Elysium is not bound by law to conduct U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved clinical trials to prove its safety and efficacy.

“This is the first time a key lever of the aging process is been shown to be impacted by a small natural compound,” Chief Executive and co-founder Eric Marcotulli said.

But whether enhanced NAD+ levels do in fact contribute to better human health and slower aging still needs proving. Elysium said it planned to conduct further trials to prove the hypothesis.

The trouble with designing such trials is that it is unclear how the investigator will find an appropriate measure to reflect changes in quality of life and aging.

“How do you feel that you’re not aging - that’s a very hard question to answer,” said David Fialkow, managing director of General Catalyst, which has also backed companies such as Airbnb and Stripe.

“People just say they feel better ... Now is there a placebo effect, is it people just being happy, who knows? We know NAD+ works and we know people who take it feel better, and that is good enough for us to feel like we’re creating a great product.”

Other Elysium investors include Breyer Capital, Morningside Ventures and Sound Ventures. Elysium declined to provide details on its valuation.

Reporting by Natalie Grover and Supantha Mukherjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel

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