Can Google’s Calico Develop a Cure for Death?
Google is an incredible company. Founded only 14 years ago, Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) is now the third-largest company in the world by market cap, and sits on a staggering amount of cash, over $58 billion, even more than Apple. Google’s balance sheet is so strong that on average, Google has acquired more than one company every week since 2010. This staggering amount of capital also allows the Company to dabble in many areas of technology that are so futuristic that they seem to have nothing to do with “organizing the world’s information and making it universally available”. Self-driving cars, drone delivery, wind energy, intelligent contact lenses, internet service via balloons, and a space elevator are all projects Google has worked on. In the words of Google, their company may be best described as one that “likes to solve problems of scale using technology”. What bigger problem that faces humanity is there to solve than that of aging? Established almost one year ago to date, Google’s independent R&D company, Calico, is looking to do just that.
Calico currently operates in stealth mode, so speculation about what the company is up to abounds. At least two important questions can be answered; who is backing the company and who is leading it. Calico’s initial investors are Google and Arthur Levinson. While Bloom Energy raised eyebrows with a record $1 billion in funding, Google could have funded Bloom entirely with just 1.7% of their cash on hand. With Google as a founding investor, Calico will not need to expend much energy looking for additional capital. The other initial investor, Arthur Levinson, was the former CEO of Genentech for 14 years and is now Chairman of the Board for the biggest company in the world, Apple, and also Chairman of the Board for Genentech. He is also the current CEO of Calico. Hal V. Barron, former Chief Medical Officer of Hoffman-La Roche, is Calico’s President of R&D. Princeton biologist David Botstein, one of the world’s leading geneticists, is Calico’s Chief Scientific Officer.
Calico’s First Press Release
While the Company has been operating in stealth mode so far, yesterday Calico issued their first press release announcing a 10-year R&D collaboration with AbbVie (NYSE:ABBV), an $88 billion research-based pharmaceuticals company that was formed in 2013 following a separation from Abbott Laboratories. One of AbbVie’s drugs, Humira, is considered to be the world’s best-selling drugs having exceeded $10 billion in global sales. Under the terms of the collaboration, each party will initially provide up to $250 million with the potential for both sides to contribute an additional $500 million. Using this funding, Calico will use its scientific expertise to establish a world-class research and development facility and AbbVie will use its commercial expertise to bring the new drugs discovered in this facility to market. Both parties will share costs and profits equally.
According to an article by TechCrunch, Calico isn’t looking to make people immortal but instead to increase the lifespan of people born 20 years ago by as much as 100 years. While investing in Google today may not provide much exposure to the potential of Calico, the lofty ambitions of this stealthy startup demand that their progress be closely monitored, not only by investors, but also by those people who may be curious what it would be like to have great, great great grandchildren.