Samumed has been raising huge amounts of cash on the hopes that its technology can reverse a whole host of age-related conditions including baldness, wrinkles, and even worn-down joints. The company’s $12 billion valuation is one of the highest on the planet for a private biotech company, with their “fountain of youth” promise proving to be a very popular one. It’s hardly surprising though that a technology that might be able to deliver new approaches to treat the effects of aging would be an investor magnet – if the tech really works, the company is sure to deliver some massive returns. There is however plenty of skepticism, with a long list of drugs in the pipeline but not a single one yet on the market. Anything that they end up hoping to bring to the public will also need FDA approval. Samumed’s first drugs are targeted at specific organ systems. One aims to regrow hair in bald men. The same drug may also turn gray hair back to its original color, and a cosmetic version could erase wrinkles. A second drug seeks to regenerate cartilage in arthritic knees. Additional medicines in early human studies aim to repair degenerated discs in the spine, remove scarring in the lungs and treat cancers. The firm’s focus, disease by disease, symptom by symptom, is to make the cells of aging people regenerate as powerfully as those of a developing fetus. This is done by triggering something called progenitor stem cells. CEO Osman Kibar explains these cells are in charge of repairing and replenishing specific organs in the body. “For example, a mesenchymal stem cell of the osteoblast lineage can go in and repair bone that’s damaged.” The company’s treatments manipulate the WNT pathway, a set of proteins that tell these stem cells to spring into action. Kibar says these WNT levels get out of balance as we age. By successfully manipulating the WNT pathway, Samumed hopes to reverse various conditions or even prevent some diseases from occurring to begin with. Samumed has seven drugs in human clinical trials up to phase two and plans to be in 10 disease areas by the end of 2017. The one nearest to getting to a phase-three trial treats osteoarthritis by regenerating cartilage. If it proves successful, it will be the first treatment ever capable of regrowing cartilage. The company has a distinct lack of healthcare specialist investors, though, which has led to perhaps even greater skepticism. That doubt has been somewhat amplified since the Theranos scandal, the blood testing company that raised $725 million and had a $9 billion valuation before The Wall Street Journal published an investigation that questioned the accuracy of those tests and led to its labs getting shut down. Like Theranos, Samumed has kept the details of its technology a very tightly-held secret. Kibar says they will be publishing later-stage trial data in academic journals, saying they are willing to provide proof that it does work. “How it works,” says Kibar, “you just need to wait a little longer, because we want to build as much a head start as we can.” Personally, I’ve learned some very valuable lesson investing in the health and bio-med space. I’ve learned that I’ve never heard a bad story or one that I didn’t think would help the world or mankind. The problem is there’s a lot more involved in being a profitable business than just “the story”, being a company that returns gains on investments to shareholders is an extremely challenging hurdle, especially with technology so rapidly advancing in this space. There are definitely some huge home runs that can be hit in this sector, but I’ve learned I’m just not a disciplined enough hitter in this space to know what pitches to swing at. In other words I can’t tell if it‘s a fastball or curve-ball when it leaves the pitchers hand, therefore I’ll strike out twenty times in a row before I put the bat on the ball. I just don’t want to battle that psychology in an environment that’s been offering up such easy layups in other areas. (Sources: Business Insider, Forbes)