Over the past decade, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos and Peter Thiel have all poured money into research aimed at extending life and fighting aging. Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk disagrees.
“I don’t think we should be trying to make people live very long,” Musk recently told Insider. “It would cause society to suffocate because the truth is most people don’t change their minds. They just die. So if they don’t die we’ll be stuck with old ideas and society won’t will not advance.”
It’s a contrarian view, at least among Silicon Valley billionaires, many of whom have already invested in longevity research. So far, very few – perhaps none – of these investments have come to fruition.
In September 2021, the MIT Technology Review reported that Bezos invested an undisclosed sum of money in anti-aging startup Altos Labs, which officially launched earlier this year. According to its website, the San Francisco-based biotech company focuses on “cellular rejuvenation programming,” a theorized method for reversing disease, injury and disability.
Bezos and Thiel also invested in Unity Biotechnology, a south San Francisco-based company that studies “senescent cells,” which stop dividing in humans as they age.. The idea, according to the company’s website, is to develop “transformative drugs to slow, halt or prevent the diseases of aging.”
Unity Biotechnology raised over $300 million in funding before going public in 2018. As of Monday afternoon, it had a market capitalization of $73.06 million, down significantly from its peak in September 2018. of $972 million.
Thiel is perhaps one of Silicon Valley’s most well-known proponents of anti-aging research. A startup Thiel helped fund, called Ambrosia, revisited a 1950s practice called parabiosis, which experimented with opening and stitching circulatory systems in rats.
The studies didn’t come to any hard conclusions, but the Monterey, Calif.-based company has started similar trials in humans anyway – injecting blood from people under 25 into elderly participants. 35+ – claiming rejuvenating effects.
“It’s one of those very strange things where people had done these studies in the 1950s and then it was completely dropped,” Thiel told Insider. in 2015. “I think there’s a lot of this stuff that’s been weirdly underexplored.”
In 2019, the US Food and Drug Administration issued a parabiosis warning. Ambrosia appears to be non-operational today.
That hasn’t stopped other tech billionaires from pursuing similar end goals.. Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, are the co-founders of the Breakthrough Prize, which annually awards $3 million to scientists who make “transformative advances toward understanding living systems and extending human life,” according to its website.
“I’m more interested in questions about people,” Zuckerberg said during a Facebook Q&A event in 2015. “What will allow us to live forever? How do we cure all diseases? How do we does the brain work? How does learning work and how can we enable humans to learn a million times more?”
According to The New Yorker, Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison has donated at least $370 million to anti-aging research. Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page helped launch biotech startup Calico, an Alphabet subsidiary that studies age-related diseases like diabetes and Alzheimer’s.
In other words, it looks like Musk — the richest person in the world, with a net worth of $265.4 billion, according to Forbes — stands against many of his Silicon Valley peers. “I would definitely like to stay healthy longer,” Musk told Insider. “But I’m not afraid to die. I think it would be a relief.”
Bezos, Thiel, Musk, Zuckerberg, Ellison, Brin and Page did not immediately respond to CNBC Make It’s request for comment.
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