Mysterious Retro Biosciences Launches to "Increase Healthy Human Lifespan by 10 Years"
Retro Biosciences announced on Twitter that it is launching with $180 million in funding. Not much is known about the company, except that it indicates it is focused on the “cellular drivers of aging” and will have three programs. On its website, Retro states that its mission “is to increase healthy human lifespan by 10 years.”
The three programs will focus on cellular reprogramming, autophagy and plasma-inspired therapeutics. “By focusing on the cellular driver of aging, Retro will produce therapeutics eventually capable of multi-disease prevention,” the company tweeted.
The company’s chief executive officer is Joe Betts-Lacroix, better known for inventing the world’s smallest personal computer. This technology paved the way for tablets and laptops. He’s been knocking around in biotechnology and biomedicine since at least 2010 when he joined Halcyon Molecular to head its automation efforts. Halcyon was focused on using electron microscopes to sequence human DNA.
Then in 2012, Betts-Lacroix founded the Health Extension Foundation, which focused on aging and increasing funding for diseases of aging. A year later he co-founded VIUM, raising $33 million to focus on automating in vivo research. The company was acquired by Recursion in 2020.
Retro was co-founded by Betts-Lacroix, Sheng Ding and Matt Buckley. Ding is a professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry at the University of California, San Francisco. His work focuses on small molecules that control stem cell maintenance, activation, differentiation and reprogramming. Buckley was previously a systems integration engineer with Illumina, and before that, a scientist with Global Biologics Development at Bayer HealthCare. He earned his Ph.D. in Genetics from Stanford University.
The company website indicates it believes the $180 million will be used to take it through the first proof-of-concept and secure operation over the next 10 years.
In its announcement, Retro stated, “We have a molecule in our autophagy program that will enter the clinic in the next year. In our plasma program, we’re characterizing and optimizing plasma interventions in both preclinical and clinical settings, with the first development candidate expected in two years. Our cellular reprogramming effort is closest to fundamental research and farthest upstream in the mechanisms of aging. We will work towards a clinical proof-of-concept over the next four years. To support these three programs, we are investing heavily in single-cell multi-omics, machine-learning-based computational biology, and lab automation.”
Rounding out the company’s executives are Ieva Veya, vice president of operations, formerly with Airbus's R&D division and Simon Vidal, head of T Cell Therapeutics, previously a scientist and group leader in the Department of Cell and Gene Therapy and a postdoctoral fellow in the department of Research Biology and Discovery Oncology at Genentech. The company currently has about 12 employees.
Retro Biosciences is based in San Francisco. What is notably missing from its announcement is the mention of who the investors are, nor is it mentioned in databases such as Crunchbase.
The tweet went on to say, “We’re honored to be working with our hands-on advisors Alex @OcampoLab, Vadim @GladyshevLab, @falexwolf, @kpforrney, Jeff Kindler and Jorg Goronzy.”
Ocampo Lab is a research program in the Department of Biomedical Sciences with the University of Lausanne in Switzerland that focuses on aging and cellular reprogramming. The Gladyshev Lab is the research laboratory of Vadim N. Gladyshev, Ph.D., professor of medicine, director of the Center for Redox Medicine and Associate Member of the Broad Institute. Alex Wolf previously led the building of Cellarity’s computer program and created Sanpy. Kristen Fortney is chief CEO and co-founder of BioAge Labs, a healthspan and aging startup. Jeff Kindler is a former chairman and CEO of Pfizer. Dr. Jooerg (Jorg) Goronzy, MD, Ph.D., is faculty at the Mayo Clinic, whose research focuses on the age of the immune system.