First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Sajad Zalzala: My family and I live in the Detroit, Michigan area. We were one of the hardest-hit states in the early days of the pandemic, but Michiganders took action to reduce the spread of the virus and took us from the top 3 in terms of the number of cases down below the top 10. I have transitioned to work entirely from home, caring for my patients, and running the medical part of AgelessRx out of my home office. My wife is a part-time pharmacist and continues to be a “front line worker” at a local pharmacy. I have 3 children, and they just started attending school again in-person (I do not know how long this will last since cases in Michigan are on the rise again…). Overall, I cannot complain about my situation – I am blessed.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded AgelessRx.
Sajad Zalzala: I started my career in the IT field – I worked as network support and other IT jobs for a while, but found helping people was my calling and switched to medicine. Early in medical school, I became discouraged by a lack of disease prevention in the allopathic model of medicine – there was a large disconnect between the physiology and biochemistry and the treatments we were being taught. This led me to what’s known as integrative functional medicine – trying to find and treat the underlying cause. It soon became obvious that the ultimate underlying cause of nearly all human chronic diseases was premature aging. When I had the opportunity to merge my telemedicine experience with my passion for disease prevention, AgelessRx was born. We launched in October 2019 as qalytude and changed the name to AgelessRx in June 2020.
How does AgelessRx innovate?
Sajad Zalzala: There are many great academics, scientists, and researchers working on slowing down and even reversing the aging process – a field known as longevity. However, one major component was missing – clinical implementation and wide availability. Enter: AgelessRx. We make longevity therapies easily accessible through our telemedicine platform. We are in the process of building technology to help track patients’ health status and provide customized recommendations. We are also getting ready to launch clinical trials on therapies such as rapamycin in the hopes of making these therapies more widely available – feeding back into our telemedicine platform.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Sajad Zalzala: In the early days of the pandemic, we saw a slight slowdown of customer acquisition – probably because prospective patients were worried about the more immediate threat of COVID-19 and not worrying so much about their longevity. However, the SARS-CoV-2 virus has taught the importance of physiological resilience – older people die from COVID-19 at much higher rates not because the virus somehow knows the year they were born, but because the aging process makes the entire person more susceptible to disease. Therapies that increase health spans, such as metformin and NAD+ replacement, enhance the entire physiology and resilience of the immune system.
We have IRB approval for two (2) separate COVID-19 trials. We will evaluate these anti-aging therapies in both acute COVID-19 infection and what’s known as “post-COVID” or long-COVID syndrome. We are hoping that this will lead to better acute outcomes and also shorter and more complete recovery from the post-COVID syndrome.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Sajad Zalzala: Early in the pandemic, we were exploring the idea of offering hydroxychloroquine (since it was at the time very promising to protect against COVID-19) as well as offering COVID-19 testing through our telemedicine platform. However, as the FDA and various medical organizations started to recommend against HCQ use and home testing, we made the difficult choice not to offer these.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and AgelessRx in the future?
Sajad Zalzala: During times of stress and anxiety, I have a couple of strategies to help cope. One strategy is just to keep busy. The human mind can be its own worst enemy and harshest critic – keeping it occupied is a very good tool to make the mind a friend instead of a foe.
I also pray – a lot more prayer these days. I ask the Lord to guide me to the best things for my family (not the easiest, but the best) and me. And to give me patience and wisdom to overcome challenges that will inevitably occur.
On really bad days, I watch re-runs of my favorite Star Trek episodes – I am a big TNG and DS9 fan.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Sajad Zalzala: AgelessRx is trying to make longevity therapies as widely accessible as possible. There are traditional brick & mortar anti-aging clinics that are limited by geographic location, high costs, and variable quality of service. Whereas AgelessRx operates entirely virtually, serving patients across the country, with an easy process, personalized care, and affordability. We are direct to customers via telemedicine…
Your final thoughts?
AgelessRx is a Public Benefit Corporation or PBC. Our mission is to improve humanity by reducing the burden of premature aging and eventually overcome the tragedy that is death. We cannot do it alone, so we collaborate with researchers, scientists, entrepreneurs, investors, inventors, and enthusiasts of all sorts.