My Quest to Extend Female Longevity by Dr. Daisy Robinton, Co-Founder, CEO and Board Director of Oviva Therapeutics

Why did you start Oviva Therapeutics? 

When I was 31 years old, and newly single, I met with a reproductive endocrinologist to better understand my fertility potential. Despite being a scientist with a PhD in Human Biology, I was shocked to realize how little I knew about reproductive health – including the details of what’s happening during each stage of the menstrual cycle, and how our entire physiology can become massively dysregulated as we approach menopause. This visit also underscored a societal truth: No one ever talks about ovaries in the context of longevity, despite the fact that they’re the fastest-aging organ and their decline leads to negative health outcomes for women universally. 

Another appalling truth is that female reproductive physiology is one of the most robust multivariate signatures of human biology, yet it has been neglected or overlooked in the vast majority of biomedical research and clinical development to date. 

I founded Oviva to address the vast unmet need in women’s health by expanding funding, research and clinical development in ovarian physiology, and have partnered with two of the world’s leading scientists in reproductive health from MGH – Dr. Patricia Donahoe and Dr. David Pépin – to bring this vision to life. 

Dr. Donahoe was one of the first to clone and describe the Anti-Müllerian Hormone (AMH) gene, an essential hormone in our reproductive physiology and the basis for our first therapeutic. 

Dr. Pépin has dedicated his career to understanding the function of AMH in reproductive health with a special focus on fertility, cancer treatment and contraception. 

Together, we are developing a first-in-class therapeutic that aims to extend ovarian function and, consequently, healthspan (the years of life spent in good health) in women. 

Tell us about Oviva’s research

Our scientific hypothesis rests on the premise that the depletion of the ovarian reserve – the number of eggs a woman has at any given point in time – is a critical driver of the decline in ovarian function at middle age, and a core trigger for menopause. Our team is targeting the AMH axis to preserve the ovarian reserve, extend ovarian function and thereby improve overall health and longevity in women. 

How are ovarian health and function linked to longevity? 

The ovaries age ~2.5 times faster than the rest of the body, their functional decline much faster than other organs which age and functionally decline at a slower pace. This puts women at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to aging. 

As we get older, our finite ovarian reserves decreases and eventually depletes, ultimately resulting in menopause. The hormonal changes associated with menopause have been shown to speed up cellular aging by 6%. Additionally, loss of ovarian function negatively impacts our overall health, including a significant increase in the risk of cardiovascular disease and neurocognitive decline, dysregulated glucose metabolism (increased weight gain!), increased incidence of osteoporosis, sleep issues, as well as dysregulated sexual and immune function. 

Research indicates that women who go through menopause later tend to live longer, whereas those that enter menopause earlier tend to have shorter lifespans. This evidence shows us how critical our ovaries are to our health throughout our lives, our quality of life, and our longevity overall. 

Why is extending ovarian function important? 

Extending ovarian function is important beyond the benefits it may provide for women who want to preserve their fertility. Many women are relieved when their fertility window has passed – either because they have had all the children they planned for, or perhaps, they don’t want to have children at all. What we’re trying to do is broader than that – we want to preserve the years of life spent in good health. We want women to have additional years of dynamic, resilient living and, ultimately, the agency to determine when, or if, they enter menopause. Mid-life should be a time of vibrancy – personally and professionally – for all women. 

Dr. Daisy Robinton has spent her career driven by the notion that healthcare can and should do more to empower people, especially women, to be advocates for their own health. Given the historic gender disparities in biomedical research and healthcare, she launched Oviva Therapeutics with the vision to help women lead longer, healthier lives through developing therapeutics to preserve and extend ovarian function. 

As an authority on aging, Dr. Robinton has appeared in numerous publications, given a widely watched TEDx Talk, and has been recognized by Forbes as one of their 30 Under 30 for her scientific discoveries. Her writing has been published in periodicals such as O Daily, Vanity Fair, Fast Company, Nature and NEO.LIFE. Dr. Robinton graduated from UCLA and completed her PhD in Human Biology and Translational Medicine at Harvard University. Her work as a molecular biologist, writer, public speaker, and lifestyle & fitness model, contribute to the unique lens with which she examines the intersection of science and culture.

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