Google Backs Calico, A Company Focused On Stopping Aging

google.cover.inddFirst Larry Page and Sergey Brin hired Ray Kurzweil, who famously wants to live forever. Now they’ve started a new company, Calico, to be run by a top bioscience executive Arthur Levinson (formerly head of Genentech) and focused on anti-aging. It’s enough to make you think that the guys in the Googleplex want to live forever. The news is all over the media, but apparently only TIME had exclusive access to Larry Page which it proclaims in its cover story “Can Google Solve Death” (at right):

“In some industries,” says Page, who spoke exclusively with TIME about the new venture, “it takes 10 or 20 years to go from an idea to something being real. Health care is certainly one of those areas. We should shoot for the things that are really, really important, so 10 or 20 years from now we have those things done.”…

Unfortunately TIME is hiding the rest of the interview behind its paywall, so here’s another report via USA Today:

Google is not happy just organizing the world’s information. The Internet search giant wants to help you live longer now too.

Google unveiled Calico Wednesday, a new health technology business focused on aging and related diseases.

It will be run as a separate company and operated independently, however, Google is an investor alongside Arthur Levinson, the chairman of Apple and biotech company Genentech, who will be Calico’s CEO.

This is the latest project that takes Google away from its Internet search origins. The company is already developing driver-less cars and giant hot-air balloons that bring Wi-Fi to remote corners of the world.

Wall Street sometimes gets unnerved by such projects because investors worry that Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin are not concentrating fully on the main, money-making parts of the company.

However, some side projects, such as Google Glass, are beginning to show commercial potential, and Page reminded investors Wednesday that this is what they signed up for when they bought stock.

“OK … so you’re probably thinking, ‘Wow! That’s a lot different from what Google does today,’ ” Page wrote on his Google+ page. “And you’re right. But as we explained in our first letter to shareholders, there’s tremendous potential for technology more generally to improve people’s lives.”

“So don’t be surprised if we invest in projects that seem strange or speculative compared with our existing Internet businesses,” he added, while noting that new projects like Calico are very small compared with Google’s main operations…

[continues at USA Today]

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  • Charlie Primero

    Levinson’s cancer treatment drug Avastin costs patients $55,000 per year. Google will make serious bank on that alone.

    But I’m sure Google will work diligently to reduce prices and reduce cancer. That’s what government-enforced monopolies always do; reduce prices, increase competition, and reduce the number of customers.

  • Charlie Primero

    I love the Time magazine cover projecting the deception that Google is a “search company” (It’s an ad company), and that reinforcing the meme that Google is merely a spunky, innovative, independent willing to tackle the “crazy” idea of solving Death.

  • Anarchy Pony

    Searching for that ever elusive promise of an immortal vampire oligarchy!

  • Thad McKraken

    Anyone who wants to live forever is completely insane. Our pursuit of life extension has thusfar lead to an increasing amount of hellish confused existences clogging up assisted living facilities. It will be HILARIOUS to watch old rich dudes damn themselves to this plane of existence for extended periods of time. Godspeed retards. This is the shit that materialism leads to.

    • Haystack

      I think they want to address the problem of aging itself, rather than just finding new ways to fix all the stuff that breaks when you get old.

      Aging seems like a problem that medical science can fruitfully address, but tends not to because the people who control the funding are more focused on the short-term.

    • Sergio Poalsky

      It’s about stopping aging not just continually getting older and older forever. If they had a pill that would stop you from aging i would definitely take it. Being able to choose your own time of death would be incredibly liberating from my perspective.

    • Calypso_1

      Don’t we live forever in planes of various high-weirdness?

    • kowalityjesus

      Is it that these billionaires are so deluded by their standard of living that they pout and sulk when they realize it ends after a while? I agree, whoever wants to live forever on this earth is totally damn nuts. Camels and needles.

    • Monkey See Monkey Do

      Life expectancy has increased to around 80 which is a 50 year increase since 1900. I have no problem with extending the life span but it will have to lead to a mostly globalized policy on population control to be successful. We will also have to start seriously considering colonizing other areas of space (Moon, Mars, Europa)

  • Ted Heistman

    This industry actually has a lot of potential to rip people off. Rip off really rich old people.

    • Charlie Primero

      Actually, it rips off really young working people.

      Today old people receive lavish medical care. They go to “rehab centers” with massage therapists and indoor swimming pools. They get free angioplasty, free heart stints, free hip replacements, and free drugs. Twenty-somethings get stuck repaying the giant pharmaceutical and medical center corporations.

      National Socialism at its finest.

      • kowalityjesus

        fuck yeah, wtf? can we have a law banning frivolous doctor visits and buying candy with food stamps? entitled freeloaders.

  • atlanticus

    And…it starts. The uber-rich become the “Nordic/Pleiadian” “aliens” and the rest of us (who survive and are willing to work for their corporation/pod-computer-ships) become the “greys”, and everyone who loves nature dies with it…

    I’m going to go try to join that tribe that throws spears at helicopters; I think they’re onto something. Maybe if I bring a fruit basket?

  • alizardx

    My guess is that Google’s startup will ultimately buy up most of the researchers working on workable projects. Remember the age bracket of the Google founders, they have VERY personal motivations to make it work. The weakness in the Google approach will be that it’s narrowly targeted on research targeted to life-extension. To make it do what they want it to do will require funding across the life science field.

    That happens when billionaires and large corporations are willing to pay taxes to support things like research grants. What I hear from most of the people working in actual science is massive cutbacks from increasingly defunded governments whose leadership is trying to cut taxes.

    I expect them to have a great deal of success, but the results will be unaffordable to the masses. And those successes won’t be remotely close to most of those who follow this actually want. But Google will have lots of patents.

    Also remember that VCs move in herds, and the serious VC money is largely controlled by aging Boomers who realize “you can’t take it with you”.

    As for mass access to the tech… the really effective stuff will be priced out of the market even for ordinary millionaires. The only way ordinary people would be able to afford it would be with a national health care plan replacing Obamacare which would cover it.

    Like every large-scale problem today, the biggest barrier to solution is political, not technological. First-world governments have been repurposed as upward wealth transfer / concentration mechanisms. The superwealthy don’t even want to pay for the basic infrastructure they need to do business, or for the solutions to global warming that will be required to keep their grandkids alive…