Jeff Bezos dreams of immortality with his new 3 billion start-up

Jeff Bezos goes on a crusade against Time himself, and bets on a real scientific dream-team to find the key to eternal life.

At 58, Jeff Bezos should still have good years ahead of him… but apparently not enough for his taste. Altos, a $3 billion biotech start-up backed by the founder of Amazon, has just formalized the start of its work on reversing the aging process.

The firm will have the heavy task of carrying out a open war on aging by all possible and imaginable means. To achieve this, it has a starting envelope of around three billion dollars; a figure that leaves you wondering, and which testifies to the ambitions of Jeff Bezos in this area.

“Doing great science”

This is a long-term fundamental research project; contrary to the philosophy that made him famous, the former CEO of Amazon does not expect any return on investment in the short and medium term. Researchers will have almost unlimited funds which will be distributed without any expectation of results, at least in the immediate future. The only claimed objective: do great science”, bar point.

In this case, the science in question revolves around the concept of genetic reprogramming. The underlying idea is very simple: it is a matter of allowing the body’s cells to “go back in time” and thus cancel the deleterious effects of aging or disease. But the concrete reality of the problem is much more convoluted, and even if the team looks great, it will undoubtedly be a long way of the cross.

But the game is worth the candle, because the stakes are simply immense on many levels. Just on the economic plan, it’s a bet that could become synonymous with a jackpot within a few decades; one can easily imagine that any concrete discovery on the subject could become THE the world’s most coveted technology (and therefore the most expensive) in less time than it takes to say. This corresponds rather well to the philosophy of the founder of Amazon, who has already succeeded in a similar bet with online sales at the time.

The elite of world science at the service of a historic task force

Whether or not it is an existential crisis on the part of the billionaire, it seems in any case that this cause is particularly close to his heart. Enough in any case to secure the services of a veritable dream-team of leading scientists.

This will be directed in particular by Shinya Yamanaka, winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for his work on pluripotent stem cells. A monumental take for Bezos and his troops. It is indeed a highly respected and influential researcher which is unquestionably part of the world elite of biotechnologies. His work is now part of the absolute references in the matter.

We also note the presence of Jennifer Doudna, another world leader in the discipline. Alongside Frenchwoman Emmanuelle Charpentier, she was awarded a Nobel Prize for the development of CRISPR-Cas “molecular scissors”, a technology that has completely redefined all of bioengineering right down to its foundations.

Jeff Bezos poached top scientists like Shinya Yamanaka (left), Frances Arnold (left) and Jennifer Doudna (right), all Nobel laureates. © Cmichel67, NIH – WikiCommons

The steering committee will also include Frances Arnold, another Nobel Laureate whose groundbreaking work in enzyme bioengineering has paved the way for immense progress, and David Baltimore, another Nobel Laureate whose work on cancer and the genetics of viruses have enabled spectacular progress in medicine.

These stars of science will be supported by an army of highly experienced researchers, whose common expertise covers many fields of research. There are researchers in fundamental biology, biochemists, bioengineering specialists, artificial intelligence and data processing professionals, etc.

Major implications at all levels

Of course, the medical implications are just as immense. On paper, such a technology would make it possible to cure an immense number of pathologies. ( This also concerns serious and congenital diseases in the face of which medicine today is completely helpless. And in the end, the ultimate goal is even to succeed in completely regenerating all the cells of the body in order to achieve eternal life.

But all would not be rosy for all that; without wanting to fall into uninhibited cynicism, it would also be unreasonable to hide the sslightly dystopian scenarios that could arise. Science fiction fans know this scenario all too well; on the one hand, we have where the ultra-rich would bask in luxury for eternity, while the members of the masses would remain prisoners of their condition as vulgar mortals.

In any case, these questions will inevitably reappear in the years to come, as this technology progresses. So there is nothing to worry about yet; on the other hand, it is already necessary to prepare for the bitter ethical and societal debates on the human condition which will necessarily emerge.

So, late-life crisis or new visionary investment? The future will tell; but what seems certain is that Jeff Bezos did not plan to let nature thwart his plans. Who knows, he may have already made an appointment with our great-grandchildren in a space station stamped Blue Origin a hundred years from now!

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