BioViva and Liz Parrish Should Come with a Warning

They say that the investments which sound the most compelling to retail investors will combine the possibility of coming catastrophe with a contrarian element (such as doing something that most people would disagree with you on) with the promise that at some point you’ll be laughing at all those poor fools who lacked the amazing insights that made you a wealthy person. One example are those “sky is falling” gold investment banners that pop up occasionally telling you to invest every penny you have in precious metals. While countless millionaires have been made from boring old dividend growth stocks, people still seem to find “the next Microsoft” and there are plenty of people who will claim to have a stock (usually a penny stock) that does just that.

If we could think of the single most troublesome catastrophe that is inevitable for each and every one of us, that would be that we’re going to die. This is the one thing that each and every one of us worries about, yet it rarely pops up in dinner conversations. As we get older though, we come more aware of our own immortality and we start to “do things right”. We exercise more, we go in for our regular checkups, and perhaps we begin taking supplements as well. We may even find ourselves doing Google searches like “life extension” or “reverse aging”. Here’s how big the “anti aging” market has become:

In researching anti aging, what you will inevitably come across are references to telomeres and anti-aging. And you may come across Liz Parrish and her company BioViva. Who is Liz Parrish and what is BioViva?

In a nutshell, a woman named Elizabeth Parrish or Liz Parrish started a company called BioViva in January of 2015 with $250,000 of private funding. The startup hopes to tackle age related diseases, much like other “life extension” startups like Human Longevity or Google’s Calico. Liz Parrish is not a medical doctor or scientist, and nowhere could we find any information about her having a degree of any kind. This alone is not a showstopper.

Remember United Therapeutics (NASDAQ:UTHR) and Martine Rothblatt? Martine started out with a law degree and no medical experience too – except that Martinne went on to get a Ph. D. in medical ethics. Nonetheless, Liz Parrish is straightforward about her lack of medical background. What she doesn’t lack is what realtors call “curb appeal”. She is charismatic, attractive, well spoken, very intelligent, and her enthusiasm is infectious.

Liz Parrish

Liz Parrish is exactly the sort of person you want out there creating attention from the media and potential investors, and that’s exactly what she has been doing – a lot. Now this next part is where things get a bit unusual. In September of 2015, Liz Parrish decided to go off to Latin America and have gene therapy performed on herself to reverse the effects of aging. Here’s the whole conversation on Reddit about this. In an article by MIT Technology Review titled “A Tale of Do-it-Yourself Gene Therapy“, the below comments were made about this decision.

The experiment seems likely to be remembered as either a new low in medical quackery or, perhaps, the unlikely start of an era in which people receive genetic modifications not just to treat disease, but to reverse aging. It also raises ethical questions about how quickly such treatments should be tested in people and whether they ought to be developed outside the scrutiny of regulators.

According to an interview with Liz Parrish on Youtube, she claims that this article “lambasted BioViva out of the water” with “very little information” and said that they tried to “discredit the science” which is an interesting reaction to have to an article put out by MIT Technology Review. Perhaps the single most compelling piece of information that establishes legitimacy for Liz Parrish is the fact that George Church himself sits on their advisory board (along with dozens of other companies as well). Here’s what George Church himself had to say about what BioViva is getting up to:

Church said last week he was also trying to learn what exactly had occurred in Latin America. “I think it is real,” he said in an interview. “There were some indications it might happen. Companies in stealth mode can do anything they want.” Church says he didn’t agree with dodging regulators and added that BioViva appears to be “a one-person show.” But he says he found Parrish’s claims plausible. A student in his lab, he says, could prepare a genetic treatment suitable for experiments in animals in a matter of days.

Liz Parrish offers up a telomere test as evidence that the therapy is working. Here’s the results so you can see for yourself. First the before:

And then the “after”:

The thing is though, if you want to lengthen your telomeres, you can go use the TA-65 supplement which has been shown in a published human study to lengthen telomeres for over a period of 12 months. The study in question was conducted with 97 men and women in a controlled environment, not just with one person. Here’s that supplement, and it’s being sold by a company called T.A. Sciences:

There are also a whole slew of other well-funded life extension startups researching this same topic with a great deal more resources to work with. So does BioViva plan to do studies, like everyone else does, to prove the validity of their proposed treatments? Chief Scientist of BioViva, Avi Roy, responded to that question in an interview by saying “BioViva is an engineering and implementation company, and not an R&D facility. We rely on replicable and reliable work being done in research labs all over the world“.

Earlier on in the same interview, when Mr. Roy was pressed about details relating to BioViva’s therapy, he offered up some reference materials seen here and here. When pressed for specifics, he said “this is proprietary information”. Here’s an excerpt from Discover on the actual treatment Liz Parrish is undergoing:

Parrish is receiving two kinds of injections, which are administered outside the United States: a myostatin inhibitor, which is expected to prevent age-associated muscle loss; and a telomerase gene therapy, which is expected to lengthen telomeres, segments of DNA at the ends of chromosomes whose shortening is associated with aging and degenerative disease.

This is a company that hopes to offer the treatment for free (paid for by governments and insurance companies) and criticizes regulations from keeping anti-aging cures out of the hands of people who are aging. Wouldn’t collaboration be the appropriate thing to do here? Wouldn’t that help accelerate research and development which everyone else is stuck with doing since BioViva “isn’t an R&D company”? If everyone else is crippled by regulations, then BioViva should not have any formidable competitive threats. Nonetheless, they have every right to keep details about their treatment in stealth if they so choose to.

It is doubtful that any venture capitalist would touch a company like BioViva which doesn’t abide by the rules that everyone else is asked to abide by in the interest of public safety. Sure, there’s that whole “stick it to the man” appeal about what Liz Parrish is doing, but people who are attracted to this very charming and charismatic individual need to be careful. If you’re thinking about doing the same thing she did, then you should really check yourself. You do not go flying around the world letting people in foreign countries inject you with stuff. That’s a very bad idea. If you’re thinking about funding her startup, then you need to be aware of what you’re getting yourself into. Here’s a page from their pitch deck:

As long as BioViva chooses not to play by the rules, the only option for anyone to get that treatment is by some doctor in a foreign land sticking them with a needle. You go find any medical doctor in the U.S. who thinks that’s a good idea. You won’t. Now think about this as an investor. You are investing in hopes of getting your money back through a future liquidity event (IPO or acquisition). Would such an event ever take place with a company that refuses to play by the rules like everyone else? The possibility of litigation alone would make any potential acquiring firm back away very quickly. It’s not likely BioViva ever sees a liquidity event unless they play by the rules.

If we were BioViva, the ideal investors we would seek out would be older retired gentlemen who are now aware of their mortality more than ever, and who have lots of discretionary money to spend. If you’re someone who fits that profile and you’re thinking about investing in BioViva, you’ve been forewarned.

Want to find out the length of your telomeres and compare them to Liz Parrish?

  • Except for general background information, this article is *bunk*. TA-65 does NOT lengthen telomeres. It *may* slow them down.

    What BioViva did with Liz Parrish is ground breaking work, far more effective than any for-human-use drug or compound that’s been studied with the same rigor. Even Bill Andrews, the man who formed the team that discovered TA-65, is so impressed that he’s even partnered with Liz Parrish!

    Other people now own the rights to TA-65, and very likely this article is nothing more than a paid for Advertisement disguised as attack journalism.

    BioViva is a very small company doing what they can to change the world for the better.

    If you’re interested in REAL articles and information about healthspan and anti-agiing you can follow me on twitter

    • Nanalyze

      Thank you for the comment as it helps prove the point the article makes.

      The reason that firms conduct controlled studies and publish papers (the type of R&D work which BioViva says they won’t do) is so that they can prove to others (investors in particular) that what they are doing has validity. Here is the link to the TA-65 paper showing the results of that study for everyone to peruse:

      This is not a “paid for advertisement” and one of the reasons we have such a large audience of readers because we don’t do garbage like that. This is the second article we have written about telomeres and there are +700 articles you can read on this website that are not about telomeres. It’s likely we’ll touch on this topic again based on reader interest.

      • A decent response, Nanalyze. Though your comments about BioViva stating that they are unwilling to do controlled studies is a “I’ll believe you when you link me.” situation. And seems a little silly.

        BioViva has made tissue samples from Liz Parrish available to reputable labs requesting them, and encourages anyone to request samples for analysis (Liz was “oversampled” throughout the process so they could make blood, etc available to 3rd parties for neutral verification of their findings)

        The process that BioViva aims to short circuit is the overly-lengthy FDA approval process, one that, while it has good aims, is not particularly effective at producing good drugs, and introduces DECADES of delay in science as the corporations attempting to get through hoops spend millions on legal work (aka not science)

        To be clear, good science, and studies, are necessary. But the drug approval system in the USA needs radical revision if the country wants to try to keep up with the rest of the world in health and lifespan.

        • Nanalyze

          Thank you for having a civil discussion on the topic!

          Here is the link to the interview with Chief Scientist Avi Roy

          The drug approval system needs revamping for sure. We wrote about it here:

          The key takeaway is that when it comes to investing in BioViva, we would not based on the fact that they are not playing by the rules that every other biotech firm has to play by. We wouldn’t think any VC would either unless BioViva starts using the FDA approval process like everyone else.

          Doing a test one subject is not very valid but with that said, we’re keen like everyone else to see how Liz ages now over time. If after 10 years she looks the same then she’ll be having the last laugh!

  • Charles Klaer

    I support Liz Parrish’s decision to find researched therapy choices, even those without FDA approval, through clinics she trusts.. What still isn’t clear to me is why she chose SpectraCell to measure her before and after telomere lengths in light of seeming lack of consensus on which of the various testing models is the most accurate as discussed at on the one hand and once a test has been selected, deciding how to understand results compared against differing test charts indicating telomere length to biological age on the other..
    Here is the one for SpectraCell which Liz Parrish used:
    Here is the one for Life Length which I used
    Note the before and after telomere length SpectraCell produces a much more optimistic result on the SpectraCell Chart than the same number would produce on the Life Length Chart.
    Here is a link to a supplemental filter related to applying research on mice to humans.

    • Nanalyze

      Thank you for the comment Charles.

      The two telomere tests we were aware of prior to this article were Teloyears and Titanovo (see below):

      It looks like you need to submit a blood sample for SpectraCell so not that accessible. It appears that the one you used requires a doctor to be involved.

      While we focus solely on the investment aspects of technology, we’re keen to know how these tests compare. At the moment we’re planning a telomere test comparison experiment where we compare results of test providers using the same test subject. We’re getting ready to publish an article on this for genetic testing so stay tuned!

      Are you taking supplements or doing anything to increase telomere length aside from exercising, maintaining a healthy diet and not drinking or smoking? 🙂 Isn’t it funny how it all comes back to basic advice that’s been around for centuries. Don’t inhale smoke every other hour and you might live longer! Crazy eh!? I’m an ex smoker so falling on the sword over here.

  • Oliver

    Nanalyze, your article is deliberately deceptive.

    “Earlier on in the same interview, when Mr. Roy was pressed about details relating to BioViva’s therapy, he offered up some reference materials seen here and here. When pressed for specifics, he said “this is proprietary information”. Of course he said it was proprietary information! He was asked what AAV was used. That is absolutely crucial to the therapy. Everyone knows what was injected (hTERT) and it’s not hard to find online. If people knew what AAV was used, then it’s open slather. And it would also be dangerous — amateur biohackers could try doing the therapy themselves. Remember Liz’s therapy was performed by actual real doctors.

    “As long as BioViva chooses not to play by the rules, the only option for anyone to get that treatment is by some doctor in a foreign land sticking them with a needle. You go find any medical doctor in the U.S. who thinks that’s a good idea. You won’t.” Doctors in other countries than the USA are not inherently worse doctors, and it’s a ludicrous suggestion to imply they are.

    “You do not go flying around the world letting people in foreign countries inject you with stuff. That’s a very bad idea.” That’s an alarmist thing to say and also espouses a ‘U.S is best’ mentality.

    • Nanalyze

      Your comments are appreciated. The author of that article was not trying to be deceptive. If what AAV that was used is absolutely crucial to the therapy as you said then the point still stands.

      The author of that article has lived outside the U.S.A. for over 10 years and has been stuck with foreign needles in plenty of countries. In the context of this article, we believe that is an appropriate warning to give people.

      We really do appreciate you taking the time to provide this feedback. These are good points you raise and we always need to check and make sure we aren’t being overly ethnocentric.

  • agingoldman

    There are times where you’ll have to take a risk. BioViva may very well be a fraud, but if they are still in business in 10-15 years, I will go to Colombia to get their treatment. There’s always a delicate balance of safety and progress. In the last 17 years, there are countless gene therapy trials, but no FDA approval on any gene therapy drugs. While Europe and China have approved some gene therapy drugs. I refuse to believe in the last 17 years not one gene therapy drug is safe enough and effective enough. This is the FDA being overly conservative (or got paid off by special interests) to not approve any gene therapy. So lack of FDA approval doesn’t mean it’s not effective. The fact that they are getting funding shows that there are investors who understands this.

    • Nanalyze

      Thank you for the input.

      Regarding funding, we are not aware of any substantial funding that has been raised but we do know that they are trying to raise funding right now with the below basic terms:

      We are currently offering 16.8% of the company for $14 Million (USD). We are able to accept a minimum of $100,000 (USD) from accredited investors.
      We also offer a lifetime therapy subscription at an investment of $1.5 Million (USD), for a 0.5% stake in the company. This offers our investors therapies at cost (both direct and indirect) for the life of the company.

      The biggest point of contention raised in the article is just what sort of liquidity event can be expected with the way they are currently choosing to operate.

      Per your statement, wouldn’t it also be appropriate to say that in 10-15 years you’ll go to Columbia to get the treatment provided that their single test subject does not appear to have aged since the treatment? 😉

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