Google Launches Biotech Company Calico To Solve Illness, Aging Challenges

Google on Wednesday launched Calico, a company focused on health issues related to the challenges of aging and associated diseases. Founding investor Arthur D. Levinson takes the helm as the company's CEO.

Levinson will remain chairman of Genentech and Apple, as well as a director of Hoffmann-La Roche. Larry Page, Google cofounder and CEO, announced the company and appointment on Google+. Time magazine ran the news in a cover story.

"Art and I are excited about tackling aging and illness," Page wrote in a Google+ post. "These issues affect us all -- from the decreased mobility and mental agility that comes with age, to life-threatening diseases that exact a terrible physical and emotional toll on individuals and families."

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Calico is an abbreviation for the California Life Company, Levinson wrote in a Google+ post. Some of the topics the organization will tackle include what underlies aging, and whether there is a direct link between certain diseases and the aging process.

In his post, Levinson thanks Apple CEO Tim Cook, who put rivalries aside to say a few words of encouragement. The project will likely benefit everyone, but Cook specifically pointed to the early loss of family and friends, like Steve Jobs, due to illness.

Calico engineers and scientists will have an opportunity to use Google's experience with data, behavior and relationships between genealogy, preferences and behavior.

Google's founders have invested in many life science projects. They have long been involved with issues of immortality. For years, Page and Sergey Brin have been involved in a project that is dedicated to the belief that one day humans and machines will merge. A 2010 New York Times article details an experiment known as Singularity on the NASA campus that allowed Google cofounder Brin to remotely control a robot from miles away.

The company also has been involved with tracking search terms to illnesses, such as flu activity. Google Flu Trends uses aggregate search data to estimate regions that might see in increase or decline. Estimates are made using a model that proved accurate when compared to historic official flu activity data. Google recently posted data current through Sept. 17, 2013.

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