Bill Andrews, Ph.D, was just a young boy when his father planted an idea in his mind. While Bill was standing in his front yard looking through a telescope, his father began to talk with him about his love of science and suggested that perhaps someday he could become a scientist and find a way to reverse aging.
That suggestion set the life that Dr. Andrews would live in motion. He attended high school at Cate School in Carpinteria, California then went on to the University of California in San Diego where he received his bachelor’s degrees in Biology and Psychology with a minor in statistics. He then attended graduate school at the University of Georgia where he received his Ph.D in Molecular Genetics.
“When I was an undergraduate I excelled in genetics research and even wrote a thesis on how I planned to cure Tay-Sachs disease using gene therapy. This led to my being accepted by almost every graduate school I applied to,” said Dr. Andrews. “But at the same time there was a conference going on where scientists all over the world agreed to a self-imposed moratorium on recombinant DNA research so the schools I had been accepted to would still let me come but I wouldn’t be able to do recombinant DNA research. That was devastating since that was my life plan.”
As Dr. Andrews was adjusting to the news of the moratorium and the possible adjustment to his graduate work, he received a letter from the University of Georgia with a plane ticket inviting him to come and speak with them. Having not applied to the university, he was surprised but decided to make the trip and see what it was they wanted. Upon arrival, he was met with the information that numerous Nobel prize winners and National Academy of Sciences winners had decided to boycott the moratorium and had chosen the University of Georgia to organize them because it was the worst school in the country and they could essentially fly under the radar. They invited Andrews to join them and he was able to move forward with his dream of researching genetic therapy.
“Five years after that, when I finished up my Ph.D., Genentech just went public, Biotech was taking off and suddenly the new biotechnology companies couldn’t find anyone to hire because no one had any training except me,” said Dr. Andrews. “So essentially I just ended up in the right place at the right time just by luck.”
Since that time, Dr. Andrews has focused his energies on finding ways to stop the aging process and turn back the hands of time. In the early 1990s, Dr. Andrews learned about a clock ticking inside each of us called the telomere clock. The telomeres, found at the very tips of our chromosomes, become shorter as we age or if we are facing some sort of chronic illness. Through research, it was discovered that the only cells in the body that do not have telomere shortening are the reproductive cells. This was important information and Dr. Andrews felt that if he could determine why and how these telomeres do not shorten he would have information that could be beneficial to reversing aging.
“I went to work for Geron Corporation and in just over three months, I discovered that the reproductive cells produce an enzyme that keep the telomeres from shortening,” said Dr. Andrews. “Working with a team of scientists, we took that enzyme and introduced it in to human skin cells in a petri dish and they completely stopped aging. Along with that, the telomeres of the skin cells became longer which led to the belief that the enzyme had not only stopped aging, but had reversed it as well.”
As he continued his research, Geron Corporation decided to move in the direction of cancer research and so Dr. Andrews parted ways with them and started his own company. Now, he spends his days at the helm of Sierra Sciences, a company dedicated to finding a way to reverse the aging process by lengthening the telomeres. This year, his company will begin clinical studies using gene therapy and Dr. Andrews feels confident that they will see those in the study become younger.
“When we test the blood of those in the study and verify that their telomeres did in fact get longer, that’s when we can finally, for the first time in the history of this planet, ask the question does lengthening telomeres provide health benefits to humans,” said Dr. Andrews. “Even though we know it does in engineered mice, tests aren’t the same in mice as they are in humans so it will be interesting to see.”
Dr. Andrews has been working diligently toward this point for years. After his father planted the idea in his brain at a young age, the two spent years attending conferences and workshops together and as Dr. Andrews would make progress in his research, it was always his father that he would call first. As he has researched the telomeres, it has led to ideas on reversing conditions that come with aging and possible break through treatments for reversing Alzheimer’s.
Over the years Dr. Andrews has faced the same challenges that others in his field have faced, finding funding to continue the research. Through investors and through development of natural products the company is able to receive royalties to fund the continued research that needs to be done.
“The older I get the more frustrated I become that we haven’t figured this process out” said Dr. Andrews. “There are species like clams and sharks that live over 500 years and I just believe that we can and should be living longer as well. Until someone actually turns an older person in to a younger person, I’ll continue my research in anticipation that I might be right.”
Over the years, Dr. Andrews has been awarded second place National Inventor of the Year, has served as Senior Scientist at Armos Corporation and Codon Corporation, Director of Molecular Biology at Berlex Biosciences and Geron Corporation and Director of Technology Development at EOS Biosciences. He is also named inventor on over 50 plus US issued patents on telomerase and has authored numerous scientific research studies. He has been featured in the movie The Immoralists and has written two books on reversing aging entitled Curing Aging and Telomere Lengthening.
When not working as President and CEO of Sierra Services, Dr. Andrews can be found pushing the envelope of the impossible. He enjoys bicycling and running marathons and ultra-marathons. In 1997, he broke the world record for the most 50 mile races run by one person in a year and in 1998, he broke that same record for 100 miles races. He has run 135 miles through Death Valley in the heat of summer and together with his wife has completed a 138-mile race at 18,000 feet elevation in the Himalayas of Northern India. To learn more about the clinical studies that will begin this year visit www.libellagt.com and to understand more about Dr. Andrews and his research visit his company website at www.sierrasci.com.