Anti-aging science has enormous potential. Age-related diseases such as cancer, neurodegenerative diseases are among the leading causes of death and a significant burden on health funding.

Five Alarm Bio is developing a small molecule approach to boost the body’s defence to aging, based on a new understanding of how the chemical damage associated with age accumulates in cells. In addition to a broad range of age-related diseases, Five Alarm Bio sees relevance of its platform for cosmeceuticals.

Founded in 2016 by three experienced entrepreneurs, Five Alarm Bio is based near Cambridge, UK, and is carrying out research at the Babraham Campus.


Who we are

  • William Bains


    William is a scientist and entrepreneur with a 30-year track record research into the fundamentals of biology and translating that research into new enterprises.William has a BA in biochemistry from Oxford University,a PhD in molecular biology from Warwick, and did a postdoc at Stanford and a lectureship at Bath before joining PA Consulting Group’s Technology division. In 1998 Dr. Bains joined a boutique London VC group as head of science,and he was founder and CSO of his first start-up in 2001. Dr. Bains research focuses on the chemical nature of life, it’s limits and it’s failures, especially in ageing. He is author of over 100 papers on subjects as diverse as drug chemistry, anti-aging drugs, sewage plant management, company law and extra-terrestrial life, and five books. William continues active scientific research in collaboration with MIT and Arizona State University. He has taught at Bath, Warwick and Cambridge Universities, and is a frequent speaker to University, conference and non-scientific audiences.

  • Sunil Shah


    Sunil has been active in the early stage biotech community in the UK since the mid 1990’s, his MBA thesis at Cambridge addressed issues virtualised networks in science. He started his career in the life sciences team at PA consulting group, followed by co-founding a tech company that gained public prominence between 1999 to 2003.In 2003 Sunil co-founded Oxygen Healthcare, which he grew into an integrated drug discovery services business specialising in chemistry and biology, with clients from the USA, Japan and the EU. The company grew into a team of 350 employees including a 100,000 sq. ft. purpose built greenfield development. Piramal Enterprises (NSE:PEL) acquired the business in 2011-2013. o2h Ventures was co-founded by Sunil in 2013. In the last 3-4 years, he has co-founded four companies with UK based academics and entrepreneurs, held Chairman or Director level positions in nine companies, built up a portfolio of twenty early stage investments, and executed early stage drug discovery research projects for fifteen different companies.

  • Ann Baker


    Ann has more than 25 years of experience working on strategy and business consulting engagements with companies in the pharmaceuticals, biotech, and medical devices sectors. She specializes in working with the R&D functions of life sciences companies. Until recently she worked for Charles River Associates as VP of their life sciences Practice. Before joining CRA, Ms. Baker co-founded Atkinson Cowan, a life sciences consulting firm in London. Previously, she was a partner with Accenture in the Health and Life Sciences Group and led the Pharmaceutical R&D Practice in the UK. She also worked for PA Consulting Group, and led the Pharmaceutical Strategy Group in its Melbourn, UK facility and the Technology Strategy Group in the US. Ms. Baker holds an MA (Hons) in Zoology from the University of Oxford and a BA (Hons) in History from The Open University.

  • Aubrey de Grey


    Dr. Aubrey de Grey is a biomedical gerontologist based in Mountain View, California, USA, and is the Chief Science Officer of SENS Research Foundation, a California-based research charity that performs and funds laboratory research dedicated to combating the aging process. He is also VP of New Technology Discovery at AgeX Therapeutics, and Editor-in-Chief of Rejuvenation Research, the world’s highest-impact peer-reviewed journal focused on intervention in aging. He received his BA in computer science and Ph.D. in biology from the University of Cambridge. His research interests encompass the characterisation of all the types of self-inflicted cellular and molecular damage that constitute mammalian aging and the design of interventions to repair and/or obviate that damage. Dr. de Grey is a Fellow of both the Gerontological Society of America and the American Aging Association, and sits on the editorial and scientific advisory boards of numerous journals and organisations.

  • João Pedro de Magalhães


    João Pedro de Magalhães graduated in Microbiology in 1999 from the Escola Superior de Biotecnologia in his hometown of Porto, Portugal, and in 2004 obtained a PhD in Biological Sciences from the University of Namur in Belgium. Following further training in computational biology and genetics at Harvard Medical School (Boston, USA), in 2008 Dr de Magalhaes joined the University of Liverpool in the UK as a faculty member to develop his own group on genomic approaches to ageing. His research on genetics, ageing and longevity has widely been featured in scientific magazines (Science, Nature, Scientific American, New Scientist, etc.). In addition, he has a long-term interest in technological trends and their future impact on society. His work on predicting how technology will shape the human condition has been published in magazines such as Futures and The Futurist, and in newspapers like The Independent. Dr de Magalhaes has given over 100 invited talks, including a TEDx talk, and makes regular media appearances (BBC, CNN, the Washington Post, the Financial Times and many others). He is also an advisor/consultant or various organizations, including nonprofit foundations and biotech companies. For more information please see the personal website of Dr de Magalhaes

Aging is the number one cause of disability and morbidity in our society, and the cause of the biggest drain of resources on the healthcare systems in the Western world.

FAB is working to boost the body’s defences against this damage that accumulates with aging. Our bodies have their own defences, but they decline with age. A decade’s research by FAB’s scientific founder Dr. Bains has identified how that process could be ‘tuned up’ in cells as we age, extending the healthy life of our cells and hence of our bodies.

See the other sections for more background on the chemistry and biology of aging, and how Five Alarm Bio is targeting it.


In a landmark paper, Manuel Serrano and his colleagues listed nine types of failure that happen in our cells and bodies as we age:

1. DNA damage and instability
2. Altered cell:cell communication
3. Epigenetic alteration
4. Loss or protein quality control
5. Accumulation of senescent cells
6. Running out of stem cells
7. Mitochondrial damage and dysfunction
8. Failure in cellular sensing of nutrients
9. Telomere shortening

Many of these come down to accumulated chemical damage. This is directly seen in the accumulation of compounds called Advanced Glycation Endproducts – AGEs – which damage proteins inside and outside cells, and are the targets of several anti-aging programmes and drugs.

Our approach is to look at the more subtle effects of chemical damage, the degradation of cellular accuracy, and target this for redress.


Our bodies are assaulted by chemicals every second. Even if we drank nothing but pure water and ate only the cleanest, healthiest food, the oxygen in the air we breathe is a reactive substance that damages us, and our own metabolisms generate ‘accidental’ products that are harmful.

Why are all these random chemicals bad? In a landmark paper published in 2016, Five Alarm Bio’s founding scientist William Bains described why any chemical that was not part of the body’s healthy biochemistry is bound to interfere with the actions of enzymes and other proteins throughout the body. This is not just obvious chemical attack. Even small changes in how a protein functions can disrupt the delicate balance of a healthy cell.

Luckily our cells have many defences against such disruption, but they gradually fade with age. A key development of the 2016 work was seeing how those defences could be encouraged to work just a bit harder, to counter the effect of chemistry and hence extend healthy lifespan. This is the technology that Five Alarm Bio is implementing.


To date, Five Alarm Bio is conducting seed-funded research in Cambridge, UK. Results to date, using a model compound, have successfully demonstrated the potential of this novel approach to target the underlying chemistry of aging.

Future programmes will target this core technology to specific organ systems and their diseases, as well as to deferring aging in the healthy but old.