“Programmed cell death” sounds a bit sinister, but it’s actually a normal and healthy process. Our bodies are composed of cells with limited lifespans. When a cell is no longer useful, it experiences apoptosis, or programmed cell death, to protect our overall health. However, not all cells behave as they should. Disease may occur when cells die prematurely, or when abnormal cells refuse to die.
Senesco Technologies of New Brunswick, NJ, uses gene-based technology to develop solutions for the agricultural and medical industries. The company’s proprietary technology is based on a gene called Factor 5A, which regulates cell survival and cell death. Factor 5A comes in two forms: the lysine form, which induces apoptosis, and the hypusine form, which promotes cell survival. The balance of Factor 5A is critical to human health: If a patient has too much of the lysine form relative to the hypusine form, cell death occurs. If the balance is tipped toward the hypusine form, the cells survive.
Senesco’s platform manipulates the balance of Factor 5A to target cancer and inflammatory conditions. Inflammatory diseases are characterized by premature cell death, while cancer often works in the opposite manner–instead of undergoing apoptosis, cancer cells simply live on. The company’s first drug candidate is SNS-01 for the treatment multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer.
The process of cell death and survival is the same in plants. The company is developing its proprietary technology to give crops a greater yield, a longer shelf life, and more. Senesco is currently partnered with six companies in the agricultural field.
We spoke with Dr. Harlan Waksal, Chairman of Senesco, at the 2010 OneMedForum in San Francisco. In this video, Dr. Waksal discusses Senesco’s platform and the company’s push for regulatory approval.