Altos Labs was formed to develop in vivo reprogramming into a viable class of therapies to treat aging. Reprogramming occurs during embryonic development, and the discovery of the Yamanaka factors allows this process to be enacted in any cell. To date this has largely been used in the development of induced pluripotent stem cells, a source of cells for research and therapy. The other effects of reprogramming are coming to be just as interesting, however: a resetting of the epigenetic marks characteristic of cells in old tissues, and a restoration of mitochondrial function. Studies in mice show that partial reprogramming, reversing epigenetic aging while not converting cells into stem cells, produces benefits. Can this be made safe enough for use in humans? Therein lies the question.
As the launch announcement indicates, Altos Labs is shaping up to be a sizable project, populated by luminaries from academia and industry. It may have more committed funding at this point than the whole of the rest of the nascent longevity industry. It is likely an interesting story, yet to be told, as to how exactly in vivo reprogramming, of all of the possible approaches to the treatment of aging, gained so much support among high net worth individuals interested in aging as a field of development. If these funds are spent well, the next decade will see all of the immediate questions answered regarding the use of in vivo reprogramming as a therapy.
The present big picture understanding of reprogramming is an interesting one. It may be the case that cycles of DNA damage and repair lead, via the usual indirect routes of cellular biochemistry, to much of the characteristic epigenetic change that occurs with age. In which case resetting those epigenetic marks is indeed a form of repair and rejuvenation, of a similar scope as senolytic therapies that remove senescent cells and their negative impact on metabolism. Reprogramming cannot repair DNA damage, it cannot do much for accumulations of metabolic waste that even young cells cannot break down, such persistent cross-links and lysosomal aggregates. But it may well achieve enough to be worth the effort to develop a safe implementation for human medicine.
Altos Labs (Altos) launched today as a new biotechnology company dedicated to unraveling the deep biology of cellular rejuvenation programming. Altos' mission is to restore cell health and resilience to reverse disease, injury, and the disabilities that can occur throughout life. The company launches with a community of leading scientists, clinicians, and leaders from both academia and industry working together towards this common mission. Altos launches with $3B fully committed from renowned company builders and investors.
The Altos executive team will be composed of Hal Barron, MD (incoming CEO), Rick Klausner, MD (Chief Scientist and Founder), Hans Bishop (President and Founder), and Ann Lee-Karlon, PhD (Chief Operating Officer). Hal Barron is currently President of R&D and Chief Scientific Officer at GSK and will join Altos as CEO and Board co-chair effective August 1, 2022. Klausner was former director of the National Cancer Institute and entrepreneur, Bishop was former CEO of GRAIL and Juno Therapeutics, and Lee-Karlon was former Senior Vice President at Genentech.
Altos will be initially based in the US in the San Francisco Bay Area and San Diego, and in the UK in Cambridge. The company will also have significant collaborations in Japan. Set within these geographies, activity will be organized across the Institutes of Science and the Institute of Medicine. The Altos Institutes of Science will pursue deep scientific questions and integrate their findings into one collaborative research effort. The Altos Institute of Medicine will capture knowledge generated about cell health and programming to develop transformative medicines.
"Altos seeks to decipher the pathways of cellular rejuvenation programming to create a completely new approach to medicine, one based on the emerging concepts of cellular health. Remarkable work over the last few years beginning to quantify cellular health and the mechanisms behind that, coupled with the ability to effectively and safely reprogram cells and tissues via rejuvenation pathways, opens this new vista into the medicine of the future. Altos begins with many of the leading scientists who are creating this new science. Together, we are building a company where many of the world's best scientists can collaborate internally and externally and develop their research with the speed, mission, and focus of private enterprise. Our success will depend upon a culture of intense collaboration, enthusiasm, and openness."