OpenAI CEO invests $180 million in biotech startup to reverse aging

Sam Altman has joined the likes of Jeff Bezos, Jack Dorsey, and Mark Zuckerberg in looking for solutions to extend lifespan.
Ameya Paleja
Sam Altman.
Sam Altman.

Getty Images 

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman has turned out to be the investor that paid $180 million to get biotech startup Retro Biosciences off the ground, MIT Technology Review reported. The biotech company came out of stealth mode in 2022 and had plans to use genetic engineering to make cells younger.

Altman's investment was kept a secret to avoid Retro's attempt to delay or reverse aging being tagged as a vanity project by another tech billionaire. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos invested in a similar startup, Altos Labs, in 2021, while Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg have identical investments. Recently, Interesting Engineering reported another millionaire is spending $2 million a year on an experimental regimen to become younger.

Altman, however, isn't following any treatment or therapies from the startup he has funded since it is still in the research phase.

Betting on Hard Tech

Many might know Altman from his days at Y Combinator, where he put his money into early-stage startups such as Pinterest, Airbnb, Stripe, and many others during the Web 2.0 era. However, he moved away from startup investing and assumed the position of CEO at OpenAI, a company he co-founded in 2015.

Altman wants to now invest his time and money in developing technologies that will positively impact humanity, something we have seen with the popularity of OpenAI's products in the past few months. He calls these areas "hard tech" since they require large investments to make scientific advances and master the technology.

Altman first got interested in anti-aging biotech during his time Y-Combinator when he came across experiments where older mice were rejuvenated by using blood from younger mice and were keen to fund startups in this space.

Although he moved away from Y-Combinator, the idea remained stuck in his head, and in 2020, he came across another paper where researchers replaced plasma in old mice with salt water and albumin and achieved a similar rejuvenation effect.

Altman contacted Betts LaCroix, once a part-time biotech partner at Y-Combinator, and asked him if we could lead a company that worked on anti-aging projects. When LaCroix agreed, Retro Biosciences was born with $180 million in funding from Altman.

The company workspace was quickly set up by placing prefab shipping containers outfitted as laboratories into a warehouse, allowing work to be carried out at a brisk pace, and the company has some preliminary results to showcase already.

Altman is not involved in the day-to-day functioning of the company, and his seed fund could see the startup function for ten years without having to bother about money again. During this time, it hopes to demonstrate the first proofs of concept for life extension.

In the meantime, Altman is sticking to his "eat healthy, exercise and sleep enough" anti-aging regimen with a dose of metformin, an anti-diabetes drug, to stay young.