Is Jeff Bezos looking for the fountain of youth?
Possibly, if his latest investment provides any clues.
The billionaire founder of Amazon.com is among the investors in Unity Biotechnology, a San Francisco-based startup that’s hard at work developing anti-aging therapies.
Today, the company announced a whopping $116 million Series B funding round, with the Amazon founder’s venture capital unit, Bezos Expeditions, joining a group of investors that also included Arch Venture Partners, RCH Venture Partners, Baillie Gifford, Fidelity, Partner Fund Management, Venrock, WuXi PharmaTech and Mayo Clinic Ventures.
If successful, Unity’s research could dramatically alter health and medicine fields as we know it, and the company’s Web site lays out the exciting promise. It notes under the title “Age Different:”
Imagine a future in which you age, but without the diseases your parents got. A future in which it doesn’t hurt to grow old. At UNITY, we design therapeutics that prevent, halt, or reverse diseases of aging. Our medicines are designed to lengthen healthspan, the amount of time you live in good health.
This is the latest in a string of science-based ventures and investments Bezos has pursued.
He also invested in Seattle-based biotech Juno Therapeutics, which is developing immunotherapy treatments for cancers, among other therapies.
Unity’s work focuses on senescent cells — cells that age out and release harmful proteins and other materials that contribute to symptoms of aging, like aching muscles. A paper published today in Nature found a similar approach could prevent cardiovascular disease in mice.
The startup is attempting to develop therapies that counteract aging by targeting senescent cells, an exciting new angle on the old dream of a fountain of youth and one Bezos and other investors seems keenly interested in.
“This newly published work adds to the growing body of evidence supporting the role of cellular senescence in aging and demonstrates that the selective elimination of senescent cells is a promising therapeutic paradigm to treat diseases of aging and extend healthspan,” said Unity Chief Medical Officer Jamie Dananberg in a release. “We believe that we have line of sight to slow, halt, or even reverse numerous diseases of aging, and we look forward to starting clinical trials with our first drug candidates in the near future.”
Bob Nelsen, the managing director at Arch Venture Partners in Seattle, is excited about the prospects.
“It’s very, very interesting, and could be a real game changer,” said Nelsen, adding that the company “could have an enormous and direct impact on nearly every single person.”
Bezos isn’t the only billionaire tech investor chasing the promise of anti-aging technologies.
Billionaire tech investor Peter Thiel has also shown immense interest in the field, investing in a range of ventures pursuing youth-preserving technologies.