On this episode of Lifespan News, Ryan O’Shea talks about how one of the market’s biggest players is putting forward money to fight against aging.
We first told you about whispers of the Jeff Bezos-backed longevity company Altos Labs in September of 2021. Now, the cat is officially out of the bag, and this secretive company is secret no more. They’ve announced billions in funding, and have used it to assemble an all-star team with the goal of reversing disease. We’ll tell you more in this episode of Lifespan News!
Our episode in September told you that Altos Labs was backed by billionaires Jeff Bezos and Yuri Milner, and would have the goal of bringing cellular reprogramming to humans. Bezos and Milner were not mentioned in Altos Labs’ announcement press release, but it looks like their money may have been; Altos has stated that they have $3 billion dollars in fully committed funding.
They’re putting this money to use right away, building an impressive team that includes Hal Barron, who will be leaving his post as the Chief Scientific Officer at pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline to become the CEO of Altos Labs. Japanese scientist Shinya Yamanaka will serve as senior scientific advisor to Altos, which makes sense since the company is likely to make use of the Yamanaka factors that he helped pioneer, and which won him a Nobel Prize in 2012.
Jennifer Doudna, who is also a Nobel Prize winner for her work with CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology, will serve on the Board of Directors. PIs include Steven Horvath, the researcher known for developing the Horvath aging clock, and Morgan Levine, who is leaving her current role as director of the Yale University’s School of Medicine’s Laboratory for Aging in Living Systems.
Here’s the rest of their announced team, along with some more information from their press release.
“Altos Labs launched as a new biotechnology company dedicated to unraveling the deep biology of cellular rejuvenation programming. Altos’ mission is to restore cell health and resilience to reverse disease, injury, and the disabilities that can occur throughout life. The company launches with a community of leading scientists, clinicians, and leaders from both academia and industry working together towards this common mission.
Altos will be initially based in the US in the San Francisco Bay Area and San Diego, and in the UK in Cambridge. The company will also have significant collaborations in Japan. Set within these geographies, activity will be organized across the Institutes of Science and the Institute of Medicine. The Altos Institutes of Science will pursue deep scientific questions and integrate their findings into one collaborative research effort. The Altos Institute of Medicine will capture knowledge generated about cell health and programming to develop transformative medicines.
The Altos Board of Directors and advisors include Nobel Laureates and scientific leaders. Altos is designed to integrate the best features of academia and industry — from academia the freedom to pursue the most challenging problems in biology, and from industry the focus on a shared mission, ability to foster deep collaborations, and the passion and commitment to transform science into medicines. Across all aspects of Altos will be a commitment to computational science, machine learning, and artificial intelligence.“
One lingering question is that, if billionaires Jeff Bezos and Yuri Milner are indeed linked to this company, as has been widely reported, why are they completely absent from the press release and website? The press release says that the funding is “from renowned company builders and investors”, but it doesn’t list any names. Is this a strategic decision, and Altos Labs is looking to downplay their involvement? If so, possible reasons could be so that the Bezos name and brand don’t overshadow the very important scientific work, or in hopes that the conspiracy theories and vitriol often directed at billionaires such as Bezos don’t, by extension, impact society’s view of healthy life extension.
But, here’s the thing: I think those conspiracy theories are going to exist regardless and that longevity science is bound to get caught up in them. It’s up to us to fight back against misinformation and make sure that, regardless of what anyone thinks about billionaires, we recognize the importance of, and benefits of, longevity science.
We’ll be watching Altos Labs closely and will bring you more when we know it, so make sure to subscribe so you don’t miss out. I’m Ryan O’Shea, and we’ll see you next time on Lifespan News!