An interview with Eric Leire, CEO of Europe’s first publicly listed longevity company
“It’s about keeping people healthy for as long as possible” Eric enthuses. Leaning forward, we can feel his passion and determination. “Too many people are ill for too long. What’s the point of adding years to someone’s life if they are miserable?” It is clear from our interview, Eric Leire is a game-changer.
Eric Leire is the CEO of Genflow Biosciences. Genflow is on a mission to develop therapeutics that can halt or slow down the ageing process. Our discussion with Eric takes us through a rollercoaster of emotion. He is unafraid to tackle difficult questions from building trust to healthcare. He is an articulate, passionate man, determined to make a difference. It is clear from our discussion why Genflow has been breaking boundaries with Eric as CEO.
Genflow – tackling the 9 hallmarks of ageing
In January 2022, Genflow become Europe’s first publicly listed longevity biotech. However, the journey to get there has been no accident. Eric explains a 2012 discovery of nine hallmarks that lead to ageing, ignited a movement. The hallmarks include telomeres and senescent cells. However, unlike many others, Genflow decided to take a holistic approach.
Eric smiles and raises his voice. He zealously explains that Genflow has dedicated itself to researching sirtuin 6 (SIRT6). This is a smart move. SIRT6 is a gene that influences many of the 9 factors. Unlike previous false dawns in longevity, Genflow may be onto something big.
A variant of SIRT6 has been found in people that live to 100 and beyond. It has also been found in mice studies to prolong lifespan. Furthermore, SIRT6 is mainly a DNA maintenance gene. This means it can be super targeted at solving age-related diseases. We ask Eric why other companies are only focusing on one hallmark. He smiles and shrugs, explaining that to solve ageing you need to tackle several hallmarks.
How we provide SIRT6 therapy is key to the future of Genflow’s research. They are thinking out of the box. IV infusions and topical skin applications are being researched. With the increase in research on gene therapy over the last ten years, a solution is getting closer.
Sci-fi or reality? Genflow building authority
At Antlerzz, our analytics indicate many people do not trust the longevity industry. There have been too many empty promises. As digital media experts in longevity, our social accounts have outlined several issues. These include the idea the movement is sci-fi. We ask Eric about his thoughts, expecting a surprised reaction. However, he nods with a reluctant acknowledgement.
He explains that a part of building trust for Genflow and the industry is to show cooperation. He refuses to speak of other biotech longevity companies as “competitors”. Rather, he says they are “all a part of the solution.”
Reflecting on this sentiment, it makes sense. The nine hallmarks are all linked, hence the work Genflow is doing on SIRT6. Therefore, it is critical that organisations work together. One of the hallmarks, telomeres, is a tiny bit of DNA that can determine our lifespan. Telomeres can shorten as we age, leading to disease. However, when telomeres become too short, they can cause senescent cells, another hallmark.
From fighting aids to longevity: A man with a reputation
However, it is not only by working together that Genflow has managed to build trust. Genflow has built a team of leading experts with impressive backgrounds. Eric Leire is the jewel in the crown. People trust Genflow, because of their collective brilliance.
Eric mentions he worked on the first treatments to fight Aids and that too was considered sci-fi. They were wrong because it worked. He is not boasting. Rather he discusses it like most people do when remembering their first job in a supermarket. That’s not all. He was also amongst the first people to work on immunotherapy. He reiterates his point. In the early days of immunotherapy, people thought it was sci-fi. How can you use the power of an individual’s own immune system to fight cancer? It worked and it is now a therapy used by many.
If that was not enough to make you believe in Eric and Genflow, then opening the doors to public scrutiny might. One of the reasons Genflow floated on the stock exchange was to be “transparent”. “Being on the stock exchange means everything has to be factual. There are lots of audits and even my salary is public” Eric says with his typical authority.
Building visibility: Genflow recognised by governments
As discussed in our previous articles with biotech investors, getting visibility is critical. Visibility is important for every biotech company to increase its value. Studies have shown the sentiment of online communication can impact stock prices. As specialists in increasing online visibility, we know this can have many benefits. These include getting increased funding and grants for research to building trust.
Genflow with its partner IVEX Labs has recently received a non-dilutive €250k grant from the Estonian government. This will help Genflow continue its research without giving up any more equity. This comes after Genflow received a large grant from the Belgium government.
Eric is on a mission to increase Genflows visibility and trust. He says he talks to “leading publications whenever possible”. For example, our analytics show Genflows website has over 70 citations. Many of these citations are from industry-leading publications that Eric has spoken to.
However, it is clear the next step for Genflow will be to get into mainstream publications. Doing so can have tremendous benefits in raising awareness. Eric mentions that the longevity movement is much like the climate revolution. Not long-ago people didn’t realise it was an issue. However, once they awoke to the problem there was a “massive push.”
We receive ‘sick-care’ not healthcare
Eric becomes more animated as we delve into the issue of healthspan. Healthspan is the idea of living healthier for longer. Eric sighs as we ask him about the issues the health economy faces. “We receive sick care not healthcare” he passionately says. Soon people will “realise that they need better treatment. Treatment to prevent sickness.”
This is where Genflow comes in. They need visibility not only to increase their trust and funding. They also need it to help ignite the movement.
Could Eric be the Steve Jobs for health?
Eric is adamant there will be a health revolution. It will be like the “cell phone – change human life forever”. For tech companies, Steve Jobs became the figurehead of its movement. Could Eric fulfil a similar role for longevity? He clearly has the charisma, passion and credentials to do so.
“We are in a top-down pyramid, where there now more over 65’s” Eric argues. This means the pressure on society and lawmakers is growing to take action. He is not wrong. Contrary to popular belief, an ageing population is not bad for the economy. Research shows a healthy older population can offer extraordinary financial benefits. However, as things stand, the future is unsustainable. Healthcare costs are rising and the system is under pressure. Yet, the health system is reactive to disease meaning people are becoming disillusioned. We can even see it in our social listening analytics.
If science-driven organisations like Genflow don’t get heard, the consequences could be devastating
Eric says this public dissatisfaction is having a “severe impact.” He mentions he has spoken to several people who say they “take 20-30 different supplements.” Yet they don’t know the accumulative impact. As a scientist, he knows this could have “devastating” results. This is a view shared by Elizabeth Blackburn, who won a Nobel prize for her work on telomeres.
Eric blows his cheeks as he discusses the things people are doing to get healthy. He clearly cares about human health. He talks openly about the unregulated clinics that promise results. They are often not backed by science. Yet, what can we do?
It is important that science-led organisations like Genflow get more visibility. Increasing that visibility may also help ageing to become classified as a disease.
Ageing as a disease: The route to classification
Dr David Sinclair, a Harvard geneticist says getting ageing classified is critical. Once ageing is classified as a disease, we are likely to see transformative funding for longevity research. Eric agrees. He says Genflow exists on the understanding that one day, soon, ageing will be a disease. For that to happen, there will need to be a movement that persuades regulators.
However, Eric is conscious of his and Genflows role. Whilst they want to increase visibility, it has to be carefully managed. As online experts, we know this all too well. We know creating attention-grabbing headlines is often effective. Longevity influencers have greater scope to say things. They are not held accountable by investors or the media in the same way. Eric acknowledges this can have some benefits as it helps to get people’s attention. However, Genflow needs to be more careful.
Visibility has caught the eye of Big Pharma
Eric is a thoughtful man who wants to ensure he strikes the right balance in Genflow’s messaging. He wants to inform and excite but doesn’t want to overpromise. As a digital agency specialising in health, we know this is critical. It is about understanding your different audiences and creating engaging content for them. It is a difficult task but certainly possible with the right insights. Building visibility around trust, science and excitement is key.
As an agency, we run a couple of longevity social accounts and have seen a noticeable shift in interest. The last 2 years have seen several new accounts focused on human healthspan and lifespan. Interest amongst end users is increasing. Eric says this is also true of Big Pharma. Pharma companies are now reaching out to find out more about Genflows research. It is likely that the increased visibility is being noticed in the corridors of power.
So, when can we expect regulators to take notice and classify ageing as a disease? Eric pauses thoughtfully. Smiling he confidently says, he expects it to happen within the “next three to five years.”
As we near the end of our epic rollercoaster of an interview, a Zoom meeting reminder pings on Eric’s laptop. He ignores it, focusing his attention on our thrilling discussion. He is so passionate about his mission; he could probably talk for another few hours. Regretfully, we cannot talk any longer. However, as we walk away, we are in no doubt. It is not a question of if Eric will improve human healthspan. It is a question of when. We have just spoken to Eric Leire. A longevity game-changer.