Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is taking on the grim reaper after he reportedly invested in a startup that is trying to figure out how to reverse the ageing process, according to a report in the MIT Tech Review**.**
Altos Labs was founded earlier this year and is luring university scientists with high salaries of $1 million (€844,000) a year or more and allows them free reign to research how cells age and how to reverse the process, the report said.
Bezos, 57, resigned as CEO of Amazon in July and said this year that he would spend more time on philanthropy and passion projects, like his space company Blue Origin. He made a short journey into space in July in the company's New Shepard rocket.
But Bezos isn’t the only plutocrat to reportedly invest in the company; Russian-Israeli billionaire Yuri Milner has reportedly invested too.
Milner, 59, made his fortune after investing in Facebook among other tech investments.
What is Altos Labs?
The aim of the company is to pursue a technology that can biologically reprogramme cells so they are rejuvenated to prolong human lives.
Little is known about the company.
The report said the start-up was set in the US and UK this year following a biotechnology-oriented conference that was held in the Los Altos Hills.
According to the MIT Tech Review, a securities disclosure filed in California in June indicates the company has raised at least $270 million (€227 million).
The company also reportedly plans to set up in multiple locations including San Diego, Japan, and Cambridge in the UK.
Who is working on the project?
Spanish biologist Juan Carlos Izpisúa Belmonte is set to join the company, the MIT report said. He is known for his research in mixing human and monkey embryos.
Professor Steve Horvath is also said to be joining the team. He is the developer of a so-called ‘biological clock’ that can measure human ageing.
Shinya Yamanaka, who shared a 2012 Nobel Prize for the discovery of reprogramming, will be an unpaid senior scientist and will chair the company’s scientific advisory board.
“Although there are many hurdles to overcome, there is huge potential,” Yamanaka told the MIT Technology Review.
Manuel Serrano of the Institute for Research in Biomedicine in Barcelona, Spain, said the company would pay him five to 10 times what he earns now. He confirmed to the MIT Technology Review he plans to join the Altos facility in Cambridge.
“The philosophy of Altos Labs is to do curiosity-driven research. This is what I know how to do and love to do,” said Serrano.
“In this case, through a private company, we have the freedom to be bold and explore. In this way it will rejuvenate me”.
Will we ever find the elixir of life?
According to Serrano, Altos’ first objective isn’t making money at first. “The aim is to understand rejuvenation,” he told MIT.
“I would say the idea of having revenue in the future is there, but it’s not the immediate goal”.
Altos is not the only secretive company looking into how to extend life.
Calico Labs, a longevity company that was announced by Google co-founder Larry Page in 2013, is also on the same track.
It too hired elite scientists with generous paycheques. But it is not clear how much progress the company has made to date.