Altos Labs Officially Launches with $3 Billion in Funding to Tackle In Vivo Reprogramming
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 launches with the goal to transform medicine through cellular rejuvenation programming
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."
This is nothing more than Calico 2.0 (or Human Longevity Inc 3.0)
Who is convincing all these billionaires that the only way to approach this longevity issue is by in essence building a whole "big pharma" company from scratch?
With all this this money dedicated to "decipher the pathways of cellular rejuvenation programming" you could fund hundreds of quality biotech labs across the globe for a much more comprehensive approach.
Prediction - 5 years from now we will be hearing the same mantra as we have heard with Calico but instead "What's going on at Altos? Where are the discoveries??"
" 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."
-- yes, this is why I came to read your article.
More generally, in your experience, how do big and medium donors/investors make their choice of which anti-aging direction and labs they donate to/invest in ?
Do they talk to researchers directly, or get in touch with one of movements/aliances like here https://www.fightaging.org/resources#advocacy or other similar, and these in turn have their own ranked list of topics/labs to support ?
And finally, do you think donors would pay attention to an independed group/project that would create a ranked list of topics and labs of anti-aging research to donate to ?
Asking all these because I suggested such a group, and wondering if there's actual need for it:
2022 is starting nicely. Altos Labs is not a new Calico, but it is still not as interesting as SENS, which could achieve radical rejuvenation within 15 years with "only" 1 billion. Altos Labs, with 3+ billions can maybe achieve a 5-10 years rejuvenation by 2040.
Later this year will be made public the Age Reversal X Prize (100 millions dollars prize).
What do you make of this comment:
"We do not view this as either an aging company or a longevity company," Klausner cautions as I bring up the Regalado piece. "And I really feel strongly about that..."
from an interview with Klausner?
It should be obvious that the events that happen during embryogenesis hold the keys to radical lifespan extension. Where else do we see old cells becoming young again in an infinite cycle. I mean.. we are alive and living things have been alive for billions of years, right?
So I view this news of Altos as very, very encouraging. I'm not sure why others are discouraged, tbh. Does it seem so impossible to unlock what goes on during embryogenesis?
On a side note... I have thought about why reproduction starts to fail when members of a species that are too close genetically (brothers, 1st cousins) reproduce. It occurred to me that perhaps the reason is that genetic damage really is occurring through life and if two organisms are too close genetically, then they will lack the diversity of genetics that would be required to take an average that could smooth out those DNA errors. Hmm no this doesn't fully explain it does it.
@Matt, in addition epigenetic reprogramming, during embryogenesis, a single cell also divides into order 10^13 cells. This dilutes all the forms of damage that are not fixed by epigenetic reprogramming alone until they are negligible at the beginning of life. This isn't possible in an adult, so we will need further tools beyond epigenetic reprogramming.
Certainly a big part of rejuvenation is going to be supplementing tissues with more cells.. right? So, epigenetic reprogramming as it relates to developing cells is going to be very important in the long run. I agree that it might not be the most bang for your buck RIGHT NOW, but, it's going to be needed eventually.
And... you never know what they might find. Technology has a way of finding uses for things that are new, so even if the initial concept is not of use (reprogramming IN VIVO...), maybe the methods they discover will be useful.
I used to think that failure of a project or business is a bad thing for an industry.... but I'm not so sure that's true. Even if Altos crashes and burns, I don't think the world's billionaires are going to turn their backs on new approaches to medicine as a whole.
@Gregory I'd agree with you in principle, failure is good especially if it's fast. In this case though, any delay could mean the difference between life and death. Also, we already know that cross-links and lysosomal aggregates are bad for you and still nobody invests 3 billion to fix it.
Why people are so pessimistic. A lot of funds from NIH will be released! These pioneers are making the cake bigger!
I should have combined this with my earlier comments. I think Altos is extremely exciting. Epigenetic reprogramming has had very impressive results in animals and it affects a form of damage that is universal. I also think it is very unlikely that fixing other forms of damage will automatically fix the epigenetic changes. So, I think Altos is great and with the money they have, they should be able to make progress. The interview with Klausner did give me pause, however. I don't know what to make of it.
Putting together so many resources on one approach to aging, which most of the smart biotech writers acknowledge will take decades to perfect, is insanity
There is a reason big pharma does not successfully discover new drugs anymore, and relies on start-up innovators
Yet these septuagenarians managers with their octogenarian Nobel laureates seem to have convinced Jeff Bezos to go with this outdated model
This is nothing more than a "small big pharma" experiment doomed from the start which will go the way of fizzling out like Calico and HLI
'The three Altos Institutes of Science will be led by Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, PhD, ...'
Grifters gonna grift.
Good luck, Jeff.