Jeff Bezos-Backed Lab Hired Nobel Laureate Top Scientists to Beat Death

With a $3 billion purse, this can hardly be called a startup.
Ameya Paleja
Funded by Bezos, looking to solve the problem of agingReuters

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has assembled an all-star team of scientists, including Nobel laureates to start Altos Labs that will use cellular reprogramming to reverse disease, injury, and disabilities, a launch statement from the biotechnology company said. 

Last year, we had reported that Bezos was funding a biotech startup that would have onboard Shinya Yamanaka, the Nobel laureate who reprogrammed mature cells into younger stem cells, capable of taking new cells forms.  Although Yamanaka was to work with the company in an unpaid consultations role, few other details were then available about what the company was aiming for. Now, in the press release, the company had not only revealed how it will function but also the roles of who's who in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical markets, both in the industry and the academia. 

The company will initially be based in San Diego and San Francisco Bay Area in the U.S. as well as Cambridge in the U.K. and in Japan. Researchers at its Institutes of Science headed by Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, a former professor at Salk Institute who worked on organ regeneration, Wolf Reik, an honorary professor at Cambridge working on epigenetic reprogramming of cells and Peter Walter, an investigator at Howard Hughes Medical Center working on quality control of cellular proteins, will respectively try to answer deep scientific questions.

Thore Graepel, a professor at University College London and previously a research lead at Google Deep Mind will head the computational science, artificial intelligence, and machine learning functions at the company while The Institute of Medicine will translate knowledge gained about cell health and programming into transformative medicines.

The company's executive team consists of Hal Barron, currently the Chief Scientific Officer at GlaxoSmithkline, Rick Klausner, former director of the National Cancer Institute, and Ann Lee-Karlon, former Senior Vice President at Genentech. Its board of directors includes Frances Arnold, who won the 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for her work on directed evolution of enzymes, Jennifer Doudna, who won the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for her work on gene-editing technique, CRISPR and David Baltimore, who won the 1975 Nobel Prize for Medicine for his work on the interaction of viruses with the genetic material of cells, among other notable names. 

The company has also secured a funding of 3 billion dollars that will be used to not only engage in scientific pursuit but also to transform science into medicines, the press release said. 

Whether this all-star team with deep pockets can really reverse aging remains to be seen. Or is it a problem that both the best brains and loads of money cannot solve?

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