Dr. Jan Van Deursen has made many notable achievements in his career. He is the co-discoverer of the first mouse model of accelerated aging, which was achieved by deleting the gene for the cell cycle regulator p16Ink4a. This discovery helped to elucidate the role of cell cycle regulators in aging and cancer. He also played a key role in developing the first targeted therapy for leukemia, which is now used to treat patients with this disease.
Dr. Jan Van Deursen is motivated by his passion for science and desire to make a difference in the lives of others. He believes his research can help improve the health of aging populations and find new treatments for cancer.
Dr. Jan Van Deursen advises aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners to never give up on their dreams. He also recommends that they surround themselves with positive people who will support their goals.
Dutch-born Dr. Jan Van Deursen entered our world in 1965. In 1992, he graduated with a doctorate in molecular genetics from the University of Amsterdam. Dr. van Deursen studies cell death and aging related to molecular pathways. In particular, his lab has investigated the role that changes in protein abundance play in triggering cell death and tissue senescence.
The findings of these investigations have informed the creation of anti-aging medications specifically designed to target these proteins. Also, Dr. Jan van Deursen helped start Unity Biotechnology, which makes anti-aging medications. Initial medication UBX0101 is in clinical testing for osteoarthritis. Van Deursen is a married father of three who spends his free time cycling and skiing.
Dr. Jan Van Deursen has an impressive resume that includes stints with prominent pharmaceutical firms, including Bayer, Johnson & Johnson, and Pfizer.
His lab work relies heavily on heterozygous and hypomorphic strains of mice, which express genes at varying degrees.
Aging creatures like humans and many others accumulate “senescent cells” in many organs and tissues. These senescent, or “zombie,” cells were once thought to be harmless; nevertheless, the groundbreaking discovery made by Jan van Deursen and his team was that removing senescent cells from mice significantly increases their lifetime and slows the onset of many age-related disorders. Intending to develop effective treatments for age-related disorders in humans, including atherosclerosis, heart or kidney failure, osteoarthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and macular degeneration, Jan van Deursen co-founded Unity Biotechnology in 2011.
In 2018, Unity Biotechnology began trading as a public company on the NASDAQ. Since then, Jan van Deursen has continued his entrepreneurial spirit and dedication to developing medicines to meet critical unmet clinical needs in the geriatric population.
Jan Van Deursen’s lab’s finding that so-called “zombie cells” accelerate aging and age-related disorders in mice inspired Unity Biotechnology. The primary focus was on discovering and creating medications with the specificity required to eradicate these cells in human beings. It’s encouraging that medications with this capability are currently being tested for use in treating age-related disorders in clinical trials. Seeing that at least a dozen other businesses are working on something similar is encouraging. The therapeutic idea for age-related disorders has shown promise in preclinical models, and its application to humans could significantly impact the well-being of the aged.
In the years to come, we look forward to witnessing additional development made in this field by Dr. Jan Van Deursen.