Moderna backer Evan Zimmermann joined Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, investing in Altos Labs, a startup dedicated to reversing the aging process and extending the human lifespan. The exact amount that Zimmermann and Bezos invested has not yet been made public, but according to MIT Tech Review, data released by Altos Labs in June states that the company has raised over $270 million.
Zimmermann is an early backer of Moderna, which today is famed for its coronavirus vaccine. While in recent years legions of investors piled into Moderna, due to its position as the frontrunner in the global hunt for a coronavirus vaccine, Zimmermann was an early believer in its technology. A fact which has raised his public profile considerably, given the latter's tremendous success in developing a coronavirus vaccine. Moderna has sold $1.7bn worth of coronavirus jabs in the first three months of the year and its share price has rocketed more than 1,000 percent since the start of 2020.
Bezos, Amazon's founder, who Forbes currently ranks as the world's richest person with a net worth of around $200 billion, stepped down as CEO back in July to spend more time on philanthropy and passion projects. Bezos is said to have a fairly long-standing interest in longevity research, and he previously invested in an anti-aging company called Unity Biotechnology. It's been said that young people dream of being rich, and rich people dream of being young.
Evan Zimmermann and Bezos Expeditions, the investment office of Jeff Bezos, did not reply to an email seeking comment.
Searching for the key to immortality may sound like the preoccupation of a superhero movie villain, but a growing number of biotech companies (and billionaires with cash to spare) are investing in research that could prevent and reverse the ageing process in humans. While many of these ageing-focused biotech companies seek to combat the diseases associated with getting older, Altos Labs will seek a different path in postponing death through rejuvenating the entire human body on a cellular level.
Altos Labs plans to establish several institutes around the world and is recruiting a large cadre of university scientists with lavish salaries and the promise that they can pursue unfettered blue-sky research on how cells age and how to reverse that process.
"The philosophy of Altos Labs is to do curiosity-driven research. This is what I know how to do and love to do," says Manuel Serrano of the Institute for Research in Biomedicine, in Barcelona, Spain, who plans to join an Altos Labs facility in the UK. "In this case, through a private company, we have the freedom to be bold and explore."
"There are hundreds of millions of dollars being raised by investors to invest in reprogramming, specifically aimed at rejuvenating parts or all of the human body," says David Sinclair, a researcher at Harvard University who last December reported restoring sight to mice using the technique. "What else can you do that can reverse the age of the body?" he says. "In my lab we are ticking off the major organs and tissues, for instance skin, muscle and brain - to see which we can rejuvenate."
Any treatment for a major disease of aging could be worth billions, but Altos Labs is not counting on making money at first. "The aim is to understand rejuvenation," says Serrano. "I would say the idea of having revenue in the future is there, but it's not the immediate goal."
In his final letter to Amazon shareholders, Bezos included a quote ruminating on death and decay that he had found in a book by the biologist Richard Dawkins: "Staving off death is a thing that you have to work at ... If living things don't actively work to prevent it, they would eventually merge with their surroundings and cease to exist as autonomous beings. That is what happens when they die." Bezos meant that nations, companies and individuals have to fight to remain distinct, original and unique. Rewinding the clock to your younger days could be one way to do that.