Google To Fight Aging With New Health Startup Calico – Experts Weigh In

137 18 Loading

dna-sequencing-banner
Google orchestrated a press splash earlier this week to announce its investment in Calico, a company headed by Genentech and Apple board member Arthur Levinson that will focus on aging and related diseases.

But what exactly will the company do? That crucial information was missing from the media blitz, driving a lot of speculation.

Larry_PageMuch of the speculation amounted to eye rolls, mocking a newly middle-aged Larry Page for believing his company can cure death. Page sort of brought it on himself with references to “moonshots” and “10X thinking.” But the breadcrumbs suggest that Calico’s approach will be a fairly modest one of supporting data-driven methods to reduce widespread diseases.

“The best cure—quote, unquote—for aging is slowing disease,” Daniel Kraft, the chair of Singularity University’s medical track and executive director of the Future of Medicine Executive Program, told Singularity Hub.

Google’s investment in Calico, or California Life Company, seems to originate in its Ventures arm, which hasn’t invested in anything more radical in health than a company that is trying to develop a blood test for Autism.

Google Venture’s portfolio of investments reveal the company’s interest in using big data to speed health care discoveries and improved delivery. Genentech, the biotech company where Levinson has been an executive or board member for nearly two decades, has also publicly pushed big-data approaches to cancer treatment.

Google’s earlier, failed attempt to dive into the health arena came before the big data era, but focused on personal health data.

Big data approaches are most established in cancer research, but they can be applied to other diseases as well. Google could use big data to explore not just genomics but also proteomics and even possibly to crowd-source research and clinical trials similar to the way Google Maps crowd-sources traffic reports, Kraft said. (There are some potential privacy issues with that approach, to be sure.)

Long-time Google watcher Ezra Gotthiel, an analyst at Boston-based Technology Business Research, also thought big data was Calico’s likeliest play.

“I think the approach will be analysis of huge unstructured databases, and if Calico can get traction there, the applications are endless,” he told Singularity Hub.

Sharon Orrange, a professor of medicine at the University of Southern California, has followed Google’s interest in health. She guessed that data will also influence Calico in another way: By driving a focus on research into diseases more prevalent but less well funded than cancer. Those include heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and respiratory illnesses.

art_levinson-sm“People are usually surprised that pneumonia and influenza are among the top ten killers in the U.S., and that shouldn’t be true for us. Those of us who do primary care see a lot more issues with respiratory illnesses, heart disease and dementia [than with cancer]. I’m thinking that they’re starting to get that too,” she said of Page and other Silicon Valley luminaries interested in medical research.

Calico’s best chance for returning profits is, of course, the discovery of a cure or effective treatment it can sell. But its chance to influence medical research may come from its ability to spend money differently than the conventional health care players do.

Indeed, it’s likely, based on Google’s track record with self-driving cars and Glass, that Page used the word “moonshot” to describe a project with no immediate revenue stream to pay for it more than one that people might perceive as somewhat loony.

The emerging company won’t have the same constraints as pharmaceutical companies, which have to market patented drugs, or academic research centers, where individual career trajectories can influence how research gets done, and how quickly.

And aging and its major diseases span a broad range of research disciplines. Google could break down the silos in part by offering research prizes, Kraft thought, or simply by funding projects the government doesn’t, Orrange said.

One thing seems clear: With a generous budget and a prestigious set of experts, the effort is likely to continue to draw a lot of interest.

Photos: Shaury via Flickr, Larry Page courtesy Google, Art Levinson courtesy Genentech

Discussion — 18 Responses

  • Valery Chuprin September 22, 2013 on 11:44 am

    There are two main ways in gerontology. First one, to save the lives of people still living. Second, to create human longevity. The second way I do not know. But the first one is simple: we should to revive the young function and structures the vital organ that to 70-90 years has worn down to a critical state, after which comes the death of the organism. It is our skin, the shell of the body, its lungs, kidneys and external brain, nervous, endocrine, circulatory system, etc. More Ashley Montagu pointed out the importance of this organ. For 70-90 years, it performs much wear and 15-20% of its functions. Hence, the diseases of internal organs, which strongly depend on it, hence the death of the organism.
    Is it possible to restore young structures and functions of old skin? It is. Skin as muscles, bones derived from stem cells, and can develop. But nobody does this. Or does wrong. It is matter of technique. Updated, hardened skin, this largest organ, will allow organism stay young and live without time constraints. There are no genes or programs of aging in the body. The human genome is transcribed. This can be done today. It is not expensive, but it will bring huge amount of money. Our aging and death is the result of misunderstanding the nature of this phenomenon by gerontologists. This error has already been fixed.
    Valery Chuprin, Mr.
    Valery Chuprin, William Mihajlovic, Three layer functional model and energy exchange concept of aging process, AGE Magazine, Springer 2006, 28:111–121 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2464718/pdf/11357_2005_Article_4258.pdf

  • Richard Cook September 22, 2013 on 1:24 pm

    I wish Google would invest in sens.org instead. Aubrey De Grey has a very workable model for life extension.

  • Valery Chuprin September 22, 2013 on 1:54 pm

    Just breathing and nutrition for the human body, this natural energy machine is not enough to make it work without aging. The body requires artificial stimulation of its life processes in order to stay young. This nobody does. Everyone is waiting for the elixir of youth to eat or drink. This is wrong. Therefore the body is gradually destroyed (aging) and dies.
    But the right artificial stimulation allows bald head covered by hair (personal experience), and bloodless, dull, wrinkled skin to become rosy, supple, wrinkle-free. So all the old body can become young again.

  • Peter H. Christiansen September 22, 2013 on 3:42 pm

    Aubrey says Calico means the war on aging has finally begun
    http://ideas.time.com/2013/09/18/finally-the-war-on-aging-has-truly-begun-2/

    Sent from my iPad

    • Valery Chuprin Peter H. Christiansen September 23, 2013 on 5:57 am

      Art Levinson:

      … What underlies aging? –

      It is wrinkled, flabby, bloodless skin. You can not say that a person is 80 years of age, if he has a resilient, ruddy, full-blooded skin.

      …..Might there be a direct link between certain diseases and the aging process? –

      Yes, there is a direct link. A tumbledown skin performs its breathing, metabolic and other functions by 15-20%. The internal organs do not get enough oxygen, poisonous metabolic products, fall ill.

      It is necessary to restore the young functions and structure of the old skin. To do this artificially stimulate the mechanisms of skin regenerations. They restore skin’s programmed youthful structures and functions. Young skin means young body. Even if person is 80 years old.

      Read more: http://ideas.time.com/2013/09/18/finally-the-war-on-aging-has-truly-begun-2/#ixzz2fiiBrTzU

  • Valery Chuprin September 23, 2013 on 6:07 am

    Art Levinson:
    … What underlies aging? – Wrinkled, flabby, bloodless skin. You can not say that a person is 80 years of age, if he has a resilient, ruddy, full-blooded skin.
    ….Might there be a direct link between certain diseases and the aging process? – Yes, there is a direct link. A tumbledown skin performs its breathing, metabolic and other functions by 15-20%. The internal organs do not get enough oxygen, poisonous metabolic products, fall ill.
    It is necessary to restore the young functions and structure of the old skin. To do this artificially stimulate the mechanisms of skin regenerations. They restore skin’s programmed youthful structures and functions. Young skin means young body. Even if person is 80 years old.

    • ericspecullaas Valery Chuprin September 25, 2013 on 6:04 pm

      Valery WTF are you talking about? Look up Telomerase and do your homework before you open your mouth.

  • George Jones September 24, 2013 on 7:21 pm

    Instead of Calico, the wiser investment for significant life extension (perhaps ~20%) is a company called Full Genomes Corp. https://www.fullgenomes.com/.

    They are on the verge of launching a $999 Full Y Genome Test. This will mark the 1st time a sub $1K test of this kind is available. Learn more about the Y Chromosome and how it rots / deteriotes here: http://www.hhmi.org/biointeractive/evolution-y-chromosome

    Full Genomes Corp. also has some excellent PhD BioTech scientific advisors knowledgeable about telomere regenesis to control / slow down aging. http://www.nature.com/news/2010/101128/full/news.2010.635.html

    Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/bill-gates-on-calico-2013-9#ixzz2frmAxPof

  • Valery Chuprin September 26, 2013 on 6:11 am

    Human organism, this natural machine, can fix not parts only (wounds, damandges, sick organs) but entire body.Google can solve this problem 1-2-3. I am ready to be Google’s first patient.

  • Valery Chuprin September 26, 2013 on 6:12 am

    Human organism, this natural machine, can fix not parts only (wounds, damaandges, sick organs) but entire body.Google can solve this problem 1-2-3. I am ready to be its first patient.

  • Valery Chuprin September 26, 2013 on 10:10 am

    Human organism, this natural power machine, can fix not parts only (wounds, damages, sick organs), but the entire old body. Google can check it up right away. There is technique
    I am ready to be its first patient and rejuvenate my aged body.

  • Valery Chuprin September 27, 2013 on 11:02 am

    There are two main ways in gerontology – to create Longevity man; and save life today’s man. To create Longevity man – we have operate with genes. To save life – we have to fix organ which is falling down: heart, brain, kidney, lung, skin and so on. To fix skin is 1,2,3. Skin has powerful regeneration mechanisms. To turn them on – and in 2-3 months 70 years old man, for example, will look and be healthy like he 60. 2-3 months more – and he will be 50, 40, 30. May be follow this way he can get natural 25-20 years appearance and health. We can try. I wish all of you Youth and health. Good Luck!

  • Joel Munson October 15, 2013 on 5:48 pm

    Cell senescence is most likely caused by a deficiency of cannabinoids in the endocannabinoid system. The science is starting to show that certain cannabinoids from the cannabis plant are actually essential nutrients that are currently missing from the mammalian diet. There is much research to be done (which will take place as soon as the law allows it), but it appears that dietary cannabis will hold the key to youthful longevity.

  • Valery Chuprin October 18, 2013 on 7:36 pm

    There are no aging genes and aging programs in human organism – human genome decoded already. Organism can stay young with no time limit, if you help him. Our aging is result of misunderstanding of nature of this phenomena. Aging is absolutely not necessarily. We reported this on 20 Congress of Gerontology, Seoul, Korea, 2013.
    Valery Chuprin,62 & William Mihajlovic, PhD,63

  • Sergej Shegurin February 23, 2014 on 1:37 am

    I can’t understand why AI research and anti-aging research (fe, in the direction of Aubrey de Grey “ending aging”) is not well funded by top-forbes businessmen and by government. We all are DEEPLY interested in hundreds billions of dollars investment in such things in order to save our lifes and lifes of our parents. Why don’t we see great political movements for such funding and investment?

  • Valery Chuprin March 1, 2014 on 6:17 pm

    The name “Biology of Aging” is incorrect. This statement makes a wrong direction, which has no solution. The correct name is “Physiology of Destruction.” We can see that the shell of the human body, its skin, is destroying over time. This is a natural process. As a result, the skin breath weakened, metabolism too. Anoxia internal organs comes. They start to hurt. Skin continues to deteriorate. Nobody stops this process. When destroyed kidney, heart or other organ, all alarmed. But when most large and important organ of the body is destroying – nobody gives it meaning. That’s why death occurs. Still wondering – why? Funny and sad.