MARCH 14, 2023
- From Jeff Bezos to Jack Dorsey, billionaires are using their wealth to fight aging.
- According to a report by MIT Technology Review, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman is among the group.
- Altman has quietly funded a longevity startup with $180 million, MIT Technology Review said.
Anti-aging and longevity investments are becoming popular among the rich.
From billionaires like Peter Thiel to Jeff Bezos, a seemingly growing number of billionaires is funneling cash into longevity research, or science that can potentially offer solutions to extend lifespans.
The latest addition to the group is Sam Altman, the 37-year-old CEO of the red-hot AI startup OpenAI. Altman quietly backed a mysterious longevity startup called Retro Biosciences with $180 million of his own funds, according to a report in MIT Technology Review.
According to the report, Altman’s is the sole backer of the startup, which came out of stealth in April. Altman didn’t respond to a request for comment and Retro declined to comment.
Retro says its mission “is to add 10 years to a healthy human lifespan.” The company said it hopes to one day design therapeutics capable of preventing multiple kinds of diseases.
Altman told MIT Technology Review that he thinks of the companies he’s involved in today as “hard” startups, or companies that need lots of cash in order to pursue expensive and difficult technologies and ideas.
“The central learning of my career has been that. Like, scale it up and see what happens,” he told the publication.
Retro isn’t alone in its efforts to extend lifespans. In recent years, a host of longevity initiatives have sprung up to tackle different ways to help people live longer.
Swiss biotech firm Rejuveron Life Sciences, for example, has a portfolio of companies dedicated to therapies for age-related diseases. Altos Labs is focused on “cellular rejuvenation.” The Saudi government is spending $1 billion a year backing an aging-focused nonprofit. An exclusive conference focused on convincing the ultra-rich to invest in life-extension treatments took place in the Swiss Alps last year.
According to MIT Technology Review’s report, Altman’s interest in longevity began around eight years ago, when he came across “young blood” research, or experiments that involved infusing older mice with the blood of younger rodents.
Before OpenAI, Altman was president of the startup accelerator Y Combinator, a position he held between 2014 and 2019. In 2015 he cofounded OpenAI with Elon Musk, OpenAI launched the viral AI chatbot ChatGPT in November 2022.
Retro has been fairly quiet about its projects. On its website, the startup said that it’s “starting with cellular reprogramming, autophagy & plasma-inspired therapeutics.”
“The main thing for Retro is to be a really good bio startup, because that is a rare thing,” Altman told MIT Technology Review. “It’s combining great science and the resources of a big company with the spirit of a startup that gets things done. And that is the project for now.”
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