it also plans human trials later in 2007 to test the drug as a treatment for Melas syndrome, a rare disorder that hastens aging and causes fatal deterioration of the brain and muscles. Sirtris expects to begin human trials of its non-resveratrol compounds in the first half of 2008.
In 2004 it took David Sinclaier, 38-year-old Harvard University professor of pathology, a single lunch meeting to persuade California philanthropist Paul Glenn to put up $5 million for a new Harvard institute on aging, of which Sinclair is now a director. Sinclair also cofounded Sirtris Pharmaceuticals to develop drugs based on resveratrol and helped persuade an A-list of venture investors to pony up $103 million in private funding. In late May, 2007, the company made an initial public offering that netted $62 million more.
They showed that mice on a high-fat diet fed large doses of resveratrol were as healthy as mice on a regular diet. Resveratrol also improved the mice's insulin sensitivity and increased their energy production.
Sinclair's and Auwerx's success in extending the life span and improving the health of mice has partly assuaged critics' doubts that resveratrol can work in mammals.
"This will impact humans within a decade," Sinclair says. "That's why I don't think there is anything more important than this quest. That's why I take chances, and why the controversy is worth it: because I think we are right."