Google Wants to Extend the Human Lifespan

Dennis Faas's picture

Google says it's planning to become a major investor in a healthcare firm that aims to help people live longer.

The firm will be called 'Calico' and its mandate is to extend the human lifespan rather than simply find cures for life-threatening diseases. Its partnership with the world's most prominent Internet firm has led TIME magazine to pose the question: "Can Google Solve Death?"

For its part, Google isn't sure that's possible. Google chief executive officer Larry Page describes such ambitious plans as "moon shots", and acknowledges it could be a couple of decades before they see results.

Medical Research Will Come Through Standalone Business

Calico's work is being performed at a secret facility called 'Google X' which recently developed Google Glass. However, Calico is going to be run as a separate business.

Exactly what Google will do with Calico isn't yet known. However, industry speculation is that it could involve using Google's technology and experience in storing, processing and analyzing data on a massive scale.

A Harvard business professor told the LA Times that Google's sheer size means it has the financial and political clout to help turn any discoveries into practical changes to the healthcare industry. (Source:

Cancer Not A Prime Target

Speaking to TIME, Page suggested the company's emphasis on extending the human lifespan may have unexpected results. He noted that because cancer is more likely to affect older patients, even a complete cure would only extend average lifespan by three years. (Source:

The company will be run by Art Levinson, a biochemist who made his name as the head of Genentech, one of the world's leading biotechnology firms.

In addition to researching genetics (particularly the way genes can be taken apart and recombined to overcome medical conditions), Genentech developed numerous age-extending drugs and created the first synthetic insulin.

It's worth noting that Levinson is also the chairman of Apple, a position he assumed after the untimely death of Steve Jobs. However, Levinson is not involved in the Cupertino, California-based company's day-to-day operations.

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