Well, I survived my first major physical challenge after total knee replacement — a large veterinary convention. Fetch Kansas City 2023 was an absolutely delightful way to get tossed back into the Loyal action and spend time catching up with colleagues and friends, both old and new.
These conferences always invigorate me and inspire gratitude for being part of such a cool profession. Even better — we spent the majority of our time at the Loyal booth talking with people, sharing the amazing things we’re up to, and putting our fingers on the pulse of the industry.
So, how was the conference experience?
Now home, I’ve been reflecting on our many conversations with veterinary professionals and thinking about the themes that stood out. There were definitely some frequently asked questions and of course a fair amount of skepticism.
We’d been to Fetch KC in 2022 and returned in 2023. This year, folks remembered us. They recognized our brand, recalled some of the chats we had last year, and wanted to hear more about the progress we’ve made. And yikes, it’s challenging to talk with enough detail about our work without breaching the confidentiality required at this stage of drug development. People want to know and understand what we are doing and they want to know NOW.
Our three most frequently asked questions
I thought I would just revisit for the curious blog readers — and my mom — the three most frequent things veterinary professionals came to the Loyal booth wanting to know.
“So, what are you trying to do to help dogs live longer?”
The short answer is that we’re developing FDA-approved pharmaceuticals to extend healthy lifespan in dogs.
And we’ve come a long way! In fact, we’ve been recruiting vet clinics to participate in our upcoming pivotal study for our pipeline drug, LOY-002. This pivotal study is the final phase of clinical trials required for FDA approval of a drug.
We already have a concurred protocol for the study — the FDA gave us the thumbs up to run the study, and if we execute according to the design and achieve the defined statistical significance demonstrating effectiveness and safety, we’ll be able to get the drug approved. This study is set to go live at the end of this year. Holy cow!
“I don’t understand… How can a drug extend a dog’s lifespan?”
This question requires most vets to reconsider how they have heretofore viewed aging. Most of us were taught in vet school that old age is not a disease. Ok, fine. But aging absolutely is the number one risk factor for a lot of really bad diseases and death. At Loyal, we contend that the aging process is a modifiable risk factor. We believe that we can intervene upon the process of aging.
There are many ways people have attempted to extend lifespan in laboratory species like mice, rats, and worms. We know that aging can be impacted with a pretty simple intervention in dogs — calorie restriction. I love to talk about the Lawler et al research that divided 48 labrador puppies into two groups. For their lifetime the two groups had the same lifestyle and food, but one group was calorie restricted 25% from the control fed group.
The impacts of this simple intervention on dog healthspan and lifespan really impressed me. When all of the dogs with normal diets had died, there were still nine of the calorie-restricted dogs alive. The median lifespan for calorie restricted dogs was almost 13 years, and only 11.2 years in the normal-diet dogs. The dogs all got the same diseases that ultimately led to death or euthanasia, but the onset of these diseases was delayed by almost two years in the calorie restricted dogs. Amazing.
Vets know about the impact of obesity on dogs like labradors. So usually when I’m excitedly babbling on about this intervention in dogs, I get the response from vets that we all know that leaner dogs live longer. But that’s not the point. The point is that we already accept the premise that an intervention leads to longer lifespan and healthspan.
So what if there are other ways to mimic or target similar metabolic benefits as what is seen in calorie restriction with a pharmaceutical? It’s not a huge leap, now is it?
“WHAT IS THE DRUG?”
Now for the bummer part that I know feels a little unsatisfying. I can’t tell you yet.
This immediately activates the furrowed brow and skepticism zone in a veterinarian’s brain. I see it happen — their eyelids get twitchy, they tilt their head to the side, and they inhale a larger breath than normal to get the right posture and voice to make the annoyed groan. I get it, I understand. Trust me, I’m itching to talk to you about it as much as you want me to divulge all our confidential work thus far.
The truth is, we live and work in a competitive space and this constitutes a pretty significant trade secret. But it is coming, y’all. I promise we will tell you when the time is right. For now, please accept my high level explanation that the drug is aimed to address metabolic dysfunction in dogs to enhance health and mitigate the onset of disease, and thereby increase lifespan.
I do generally reinforce the wider path we are on with some highlights about what we know we must have for a drug like this — safety, first and foremost. We know a drug that extends lifespan must be so safe that the worst case scenario is that dogs taking it have no change in behavior. And in the best case scenario, dogs feel better, and they sparkle and smile a little more as their metabolic health improves. And they’re with us longer.
So those are the top three questions we hear at events like this, and there are so many more I’d love to talk with you about. Where and when will we see you? I’ll be at Fetch Long Beach next — catch you there?
- Lawler DF, Larson BT, Ballam JM, et al. Diet restriction and ageing in the dog: major observations over two decades. Br J Nutr. 2008;99(4):793-805. doi:10.1017/S0007114507871686.