Growth Asia Summit 2022

Longevity research funding boom: Prominent researcher on why healthspan should be the focus

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

Professor Brian Kennedy speaking at the Growth Asia Summit 2022 held in Singapore.
Professor Brian Kennedy speaking at the Growth Asia Summit 2022 held in Singapore.

Related tags longevity healthspan Singapore

Prolonging health span – the number of years when one spent healthily – is the direction to work towards to when it comes to longevity research, a world-leading academic told our Growth Asia Summit.

Dr Brian Kennedy, director of the Centre for Healthy Longevity, National University Health System (Singapore) pointed out the above when he was speaking on the first day of the Growth Asia Summit held in Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands between October 11 and 13.

Growth Asia Summit, a hybrid event which consists of an onsite conference and a digital broadcast, was organised by William Reed – the publisher of NutraIngredients-Asia ​and sister title FoodNavigator-Asia. ​ 

At the summit, Dr Kennedy discussed the topic “Translating discoveries: How substantial progress is being made to delay human ageing and extend health span”.

In his presentation, he said that interest in longevity research was on the rise and ingredients that claimed to extend longevity have emerged in the market.

An example is nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN), an ingredient which has been marketed to extend longevity in China in recent years, Dr Kennedy pointed out.

Overall, there has been “huge private capacity investing in longevity”,​ he said.  

The crux of the issue, however, lies in extending health span, with the aim of reducing the number of years when one is suffering from diseases.

“Ageing is the common denominator to all the health problems…It is really about health span when we talk about longevity,”​ he said.

Potential candidates

When it comes to the active ingredients that could possibly help with ageing, Dr Kennedy has been studying the role of alpha-ketoglutarate (AKG) – a molecule involved in various metabolic and cellular pathway.

This stems from his research with Florida-based company Ponce De Leon Health in identifying the combination of natural products that have additive effects on lifespan and healthspan.

Founded in 2014, the firm says that it specialises in researching and commercialising drug-free solutions scientifically shown to extend overall longevity, while increasing the health and quality of years throughout lifespan. 

Writing in Cell Metabolism, ​a supplement containing the calcium based AKG formula has been found to reduce frailty in female mice, once they started on lifelong supplementation from 18 months old.

The chief scientific officer at Singapore firm Regenosis, Dr Kennedy has developed a health supplement known as Rejuvant LifeTabs​ using the calcium-based AKG formula.

Aside from mice study, a human study has been conducted on 42 individuals consuming the product for an average period of seven months.

Their biological age was then measured based on DNA methylation.

Findings published on Aging​ showed that the participants showed an average decrease in biological ageing of eight years. Specifically, there was reduced DNA methylation age after about seven months of supplementation.

The supplement was also found to be of additional benefit to chronologically and biologically older individuals – such as those who are in their late 60s.

On the other hand, a randomised controlled trial has also been conducted on healthy individuals age 45 to 65.

The six months trial, titled Alpha-ketoglutarate supplementation lowers Biological agE in middle-aged adults (ABLE), is conducted in Singapore, and the findings are pending publication in a scientific journal.

Aside from AKG, some other potential supplement candidates for ageing related research include urolithin A, NMN, nicotinamide ribosome (NR), spermidine, and vitamin A, Dr Kennedy pointed out.

Ongoing trials

At the moment, Dr Kennedy is also conducting two trials at Singapore’s Alexandra Hospital.

The two trials are named Ageing BIOmarker Study in Singaporeans (ABIOS) and Rejuvenating Senescent Traits in Older adults Through Regular Exercise (RESTORE).

The former aims to find out how ethnicity, and lifestyles affect biological age in young, middle-aged, and older adults.

The latter investigates whether regular exercise based on the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines influences biological ageing in an inactive cohort of middle-aged adults. 

In the latter study, the participants will engage in three months of aerobic exercise training, and have their biological age measured before, and after the intervention.

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