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Altos Labs launches Cambridge Institute of Science with cellular rejuvenation mission

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Altos Labs officially opened its doors to its Cambridge Institute of Science last week as it set out on its mission “to restore cell health and resilience through cellular rejuvenation programming to reverse disease, injury, and the disabilities that occur throughout life”.

The organisation has been busy in stealth mode: it has bases in the US, in the San Francisco Bay area and San Diego, and also has significant collaborations in Japan.

Prof Wolf Reik. Picture: Keith Heppell
Prof Wolf Reik. Picture: Keith Heppell

The event was an opportunity to engage and celebrate with colleagues in the scientific research community in Cambridge and around the world.

The Altos executive team is led by Hal Barron, incoming CEO, Rick Klausner, founder, chief scientist and board co-chairman, and Hans Bishop, president, founder, and co-chairman, with Ann Lee-Karlon as chief operating officer.

Mr Barron is currently president of R&D and CSO at GSK and will join Altos as CEO and board co-chair on August 1.

The launch at Altos Labs
The launch at Altos Labs

Dr Klausner, who gave a presentation at the opening event, was former director of the National Cancer Institute. Mr Bishop was former CEO of GRAIL and Juno Therapeutics, while Lee-Karlon was former senior VP at Genentech.

The launch, at The Portway Building on Granta Park, was attended by Altos employees and members of the broader scientific community including guest speakers Edith Heard of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, Venki Ramakrishnan of MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, and Anne Ferguson-Smith of the University of Cambridge.

The site, which is led by Cambridge Institute of Science director Wolf Reik, formerly director of the Babraham Institute, will house the labs of leading scientists in the cellular rejuvenation programming field.

Altos Labs
Altos Labs

They include principal investigator Manuel Serrano, who joined Altos Cambridge from the Institute for Research in Biomedicine in Barcelona; Giovanna Mallucci, also principal investigator, who was centre director for the UK Dementia Research Institute; Robin Franklin, a principal investigator at Altos Labs and professor at the Stem Cell Institute, University of Cambridge; and Martin Denzel, principal investigator, who was a research group leader at the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing in Cologne, Germany.

A spokesperson for Altos Labs said: “We were pleased to celebrate the opening of our Cambridge Institute of Science in the UK last week.

“The site joins our San Diego and Bay Area institutes in California, and we are excited for our outstanding team to pursue their innovative work.”

Together, the three institutes will operate as hubs unravelling the deep biology of cellular rejuvenation programming, kickstarted by $3billion of capital investment raised from global funders.

Altos Labs is now at Granta Park
Altos Labs is now at Granta Park

The company has not disclosed its investors behind its $3bn launch, except to say they are “renowned company builders and investors”, thereby side-stepping multiple press reports that Jeff Bezos, founder and former CEO of Amazon– with wealth of $200billion the world’s richest person – is among the investors. MIT Technology Review reported that “some people briefed by the company have been told that its investors include Jeff Bezos” while The Science Times notes that “the Bezos-backed startup said the company seeks to understand rejuvenation and strive for ‘excellent science’”.

Bezos Expeditions, the investment arm of the Jeff Bezos empire, was contacted for comment.

Meanwhile the science – described as being at a ‘nascent’ stage – suggests that reprogramming cells can reverse the setbacks of ageing: longevity theory is based on the avoidance of becoming sick.

“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,” said Dr Klausner. “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 reprogramme 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.”

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