Google to form new company to tackle ageing and its side effects

Larry Page: The new company will focus on issues such as decreased mobility and mental agility in addition to life-threatening diseases. Photograph:  Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images

Larry Page: The new company will focus on issues such as decreased mobility and mental agility in addition to life-threatening diseases. Photograph: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images

Tue, Sep 24, 2013, 01:00


Having mapped the earth, developed “smart glasses” and cars that drive by themselves, the next big issue that Google plans to target is old age. In a statement issued last week, Google said it would form a new company, Calico, to tackle health issues and diseases associated with ageing.

Calico’s focus will be on issues such as decreased mobility and mental agility in addition to life-threatening diseases, according to Google chief executive Larry Page.

“Illness and ageing affect all our families,” he said. “With some longer term, moonshot thinking around healthcare and biotechnology, I believe we can improve millions of lives.”

In a post on his Google+ account, Mr Page admitted that the new venture was “a lot different” to what the internet- based company usually does. He added that it was “clearly a longer term bet” but good progress could be made with the right goals, people and timescales. However, it’s not the first time Google has diversified into the area of health.

Broad impact
In 2011 the company announced it was closing Google Health – a service that gave people online access to personal health and wellness information – because it was not having a “broad impact”.

The tech giant has also invested in 23andMe, a DNA analysis company which helps individuals learn about their genealogy and inherited traits. Google’s co-founder, Sergey Brin, is married to the co-founder of 23andMe, Anne Wojcicki

Following testing with 23andMe, Mr Brin noted in a blog post that he had a “markedly higher chance of developing Parkinson’s in my lifetime than the average person”.

Further details about Calico – such as where it will be based, how many people it will employ and whether Google executives and directors will have a direct role in operations – have yet to be announced.

Google has not disclosed how much it will be investing. However, Mr Page said that “new investments like this are very small by comparison to our core business”.