Sam Altman Invested $180 Million in a Longevity Startup

  • Sam Altman put $180 million into Retro Biosciences, a company that aims to delay death by 10 years.
  • Altman’s interest in longevity research dates back at least eight years, per the MIT Technology Review.
  • This was after he heard of research that rejuvenated old mice by stitching them together with young ones.

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman already gave us ChatGPT, but he also has his sights set on another goal: defying death. 

Altman says he’s invested $180 million into a biotech startup called Retro Biosciences, per the MIT Technology Review. Altman told the publication he now has investments in two startups — Retro Biosciences and Helion Energy.

“It’s a lot. I basically just took all my liquid net worth and put it into these two companies,” Altman told the MIT Technology Review. 

Retro Biosciences launched in April. It aims to delay death by designing methods to prevent multiple age-related diseases. 

“Our mission is to increase healthy human lifespan by ten years. This will be intensely challenging and require substantial resources,” reads Retro Biosciences’ website. “We are fortunate to have initial funding in the amount of $180 million, which will take us to our first proofs of concept, and secure operation of the company through the decade.”  

Altman also told the MIT Technology Review that he hopes to use Retro Biosciences’ therapies himself someday. He said his current regimen for longevity involves taking the diabetes drug metformin and trying to “eat healthy” and “sleep enough.”

Retro Biosciences is headed up by the scientist Joe Betts-LaCroix, one of Altman’s associates from their days at the startup incubator Y Combinator. Altman ran Y Combinator from 2014 to 2019 and now spends most of his time at OpenAI.

According to the MIT Technology Review, Altman has been interested in anti-aging methods for years. Around eight years ago, Altman began looking into “young blood” research.

In this experiment, researchers at Harvard University stitched the skins of old and young mice together so that their blood systems would be combined — and found that the muscles and brains of old mice could be partially rejuvenated.

Altman told the MIT Technology Review that the success of this experiment was something he “didn’t expect.” 

“Maybe there is a secret here that is going to be easier to find than we think,” Altman said of the anti-aging technology. 

Betts-LaCroix told the MIT Technology Review that before he started Retro Biosciences, he and Altman discussed another longevity-related project. This was based on the work of UC Berkeley researchers, who found in 2020 that diluting the blood plasma of old mice could also have a rejuvenating effect.

“Sam called me up and said ‘Holy moly’ — I’m paraphrasing, that’s not exactly what he said — ‘Did you see this plasma intervention paper?'” Betts-LaCroix told the MIT Technology Review.

The two talked about cellular reprogramming and starting up a venture around aging biology, Betts-LaCroix said — and Altman offered to fund it.

“I’ll do it. I’ll build a multi-program company around aging biology, and that is the big play,” Betts-LaCroix recalls saying. “He was like, ‘Great — let’s go for it.'”

Betts-LaCroix said he kept Altman’s involvement in the company quiet — until now — to let Retro grow on its own. 

Representatives for Betts-LaCroix and Altman at Retro Biosciences and OpenAI did not immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment.

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