Calico is considered the brainchild of Bill Maris, the Google Ventures managing partner who once was a biotech portfolio manager at Investor AB. Sources says that Maris looked at the life sciences landscape, and saw hundreds of companies all focused on curing or minimizing various diseases and conditions. In all cases, the goal was either to prolong life and/or improve the quality of life.
What didn’t exist, however, were companies focusing on the root cause of so much of this disease and death. Namely, that we all keep getting older. Or, put another way, that our bodies begin to fail on a cellular level – largely due to degradation of our genetic materials.
Now that the entire genome had been coded, Maris wondered if it was possible to actually study the genetic causes of aging and then create drugs to address them (a question that was heavily influenced by talks with futurist and Googler Ray Kurzweil). For example, what if you examined the genomes of thousands of healthy 90 year-olds from all parts of the world? What genetic similarities do they have? Or, perhaps, what happens to most of us that didn’t happen to them. Even if this didn’t result in longer life, it perhaps could at least lead to an improved quality of life for folks on the back nine.
Google commitment to Calico is believed to be a minimum of hundreds of millions (tranched out, of course).
Art Levinson already has begun interviewing people for positions at Calico, which some in the Valley are viewing as more of a long-term research institute than a biopharma startup that will be in clinical trials within a couple of years. As more people begin to work at Calico (or at least try to), we’ll likely learn more about it.
The effort is very well-funded with more flexibility than most big pharma, and that it was appealing to a wide swath of respected investors before Google swept in.