OpenAI CEO invested $180 million in longevity company Retro Bio

Sam Altman revealed as mystery investor behind longevity biotech that aims to increase healthy human lifespan by 10 years.

Sam Altman, the American entrepreneur, investor and CEO of artificial intelligence giant OpenAI invested $180 million in longevity biotech startup Retro Bio in 2021. The revelation, made in an interview with MIT Technology Review, solves the mystery of who backed the company, which emerged last year with programs in cellular reprogramming, autophagy and plasma-inspired therapeutics.

Longevity.Technology: Retro Bio’s stated goal is to “add 10 years to healthy human lifespan” through the development of antiaging therapeutics using cell transcriptomics to target multiple mechanisms of aging, prevent age-related diseases, and extend lifespan. But its investors have remained a mystery – until now.  

It’s perhaps surprising to learn that Retro’s entire funding came from a single investor, but Altman isn’t the only tech entrepreneur to show an interest in longevity, with Amazon boss Jeff Bezos and crypto billionaire Brian Armstrong behind cellular reprogramming companies Altos Labs and NewLimit respectively.

That some of the world’s most high-profile and successful investors are increasingly providing significant backing to longevity companies speaks volumes. It’s an exciting time for the field!

As the head of OpenAI, Altman is behind AI tools like ChatGPT and DALL-E, which have taken the world by storm in recent months, but his personal investments reveal his interest also extends into nuclear fusion, with a $375 million investment in Helion Energy, and now longevity through his investment in Retro.

“I basically just took all my liquid net worth and put it into these two companies,” he told MIT Technology Review.

While Retro’s $180 million is dwarfed by the $3 billion put into Altos, the company’s three-pronged approach sets it apart and potentially gives it a chance of some quicker wins. Cellular reprogramming has a long way to go before human trials can occur, but Betts-LaCroix confirmed to us that the company’s plasma-based therapeutics program is already in a clinical trial, and that its autophagy program will also enter the clinic this year.

He also told us that Retro’s plasma program is “inspired” by UC Berkeley professors Irina and Michael Conboy, whose work indicates that it could be factors in old blood, rather than something in young blood, that potentially holds the key to rejuvenation.

“We showed that by diluting young blood, nothing bad happened – the animal is capable of compensating for the plasma dilution very quickly and still remains young,” Irina Conboy told us previously. “But remarkably, we found that if you dilute old plasma by 50%, the old animals are robustly rejuvenated, more significantly than anything else that was tried before or concurrently.”

Stay tuned for our full interview with Retro Bio CEO Joe Betts-LaCroix next week.

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