|Key people||William H. Andrews: Founder, President and CEO; Richard Offerdahl: Co-Chairman of the Board and COO; Pierluigi Zappacosta: Co-Chairman of the Board and Vice President, Business Development|
Sierra Sciences, LLC is a biotechnology company founded by William H. Andrews, former director of molecular biology at Geron Corporation. Andrews founded Sierra Sciences in 1999 in Reno, Nevada with the goal of preventing and/or reversing cellular senescence, and ultimately curing diseases associated with human aging, including the aging process itself.
In humans, aging is strongly correlated with the length of an individual's telomeres, the repetitive DNA at the ends of each chromosome. Each time a cell in the body divides, its telomeres become shorter. Eventually, telomeres will shorten to the point where the cell is unable to divide (the "Hayflick limit"). The enzyme telomerase adds these DNA sequence repeats to the telomere, re-lengthening it. In humans, telomerase is expressed in embryonic stem cells and some other cells, but most somatic cells do not express it.
While working at Geron Corporation, Andrews co-discovered the RNA component of human telomerase ("hTR"), and was issued U.S. patent #5,583,016. For this discovery, Andrews was awarded second place as "National Inventor of the Year" in 1997 by the Intellectual Property Owners Association. Andrews also co-discovered the protein component of human telomerase ("hTERT"), for which he was issued U.S. patent #6,261,836. The hTERT gene is present in all human cells, but is repressed in most.
In 1997, Andrews left Geron, and in 1999 founded Sierra Sciences to pursue the anti-aging implications of these discoveries, intending to find a drug that would "switch on" this repressed gene.
In 2002, Richard Offerdahl, co-founder of Zycad Corporation and former director of Digi International, assumed the position of Chairman of the Board of Sierra Sciences. In 2003, Offerdahl was elected Chief Operating Officer.
In 2008, Andrews was promoted to President and CEO, and Zappacosta took the roles of Co-Chairman of the Board and Vice President, Business Development.
In 2001, Sierra Sciences discovered a repressor binding site (dubbed "Site C") that blocks the expression of telomerase reverse transcriptase ("TERT"). For this discovery, Sierra Sciences was issued U.S. patent #6,686,159 in 2004. Sierra Sciences discovered another repressor bind site, "GC-Box 5," in 2004, for which it was issued patent #7,279,328 in 2007.
Sierra Sciences discovered methods of assaying TERT promoter modulatory agents, allowing the company to efficiently check a variety of compounds to see if they inhibit repression of hTERT, in 2005. For this discovery, it was issued U.S. patent #7,226,744 in 2007.
In 2007, Sierra Sciences discovered a small-molecule, drug-like compound that turns on the expression of telomerase in human cells. The compound is internally known as "C0057684."
In 2008, using C0057684 as a positive control, Sierra Sciences developed a quantitative PCR based high-throughput screening assay to more efficiently screen for compounds that transiently induce the expression of endogenous telomerase in human cells. Sierra Sciences has already identified more than fifty such drugs and is characterizing their mechanism of action.
- Geron Corp. Licensee TA Sciences Announces Landmark 7/07/07 Teleconference, PR Newswire Association, July 7, 2007
- Sierra Sciences, Sierra Sciences, 2006
- Siegel, Lee J. (2008), Are Telomeres the Key to Aging and Cancer? (– Scholar search), The University of Utah, Genetic Science Learning Center[dead link]
- Coleman, William B. and Tsongalis, Gregory J. (2002), The Molecular Basis of Human Cancer, Humana Press, ISBN 978-0-89603-634-5
- Mammalian telomerase, United States Patent, 1996
- The RNA component of human telomerase., Science, 1995
- Company overview, Sierra Sciences, 2006[dead link]
- Telomerase, United States Patent, 2001
- Methods and compositions for modulating telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT) expression, United States Patent, 2004
- Methods and compositions for modulating telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT) expression, United States Patent, 2007
- Assays for TERT promoter modulatory agents using a telomerase structural RNA component, United States Patent, 2007
- Tanglao, Shawna et al. (2008), The Discovery of C0057684, a Telomerase Activity Inducing Compound, The Methuselah Foundation[dead link]