Google seems to be searching for the Fountain of Youth.
What's the best way to keep your customers coming back for more? Keep them alive for a long time. Google is seemingly securing its Android user base for the long haul by establishing Calico, a new company focused on extending human life.
"Illness and aging affect all our families," said Google CEO Larry Page. "With some longer term, moonshot thinking around healthcare and biotechnology, I believe we can improve millions of lives. It's impossible to imagine anyone better than Art -- one of the leading scientists, entrepreneurs and CEOs of our generation -- to take this new venture forward."
Page is referring to Calico's new CEO and founding investor Arthur Levinson, who will remain Chairman of Genentech and a director of Hoffmann-La Roche, as well as Chairman of Apple. Calico will be established in the Bay Area, not far from Google's headquarters.
"I've devoted much of my life to science and technology, with the goal of improving human health," Levinson said. "Larry's focus on outsized improvements has inspired me, and I'm tremendously excited about what's next."
Sources told TIME Magazine that Google is keeping its plans highly secretive, but will likely start with a small number of employees and initially focus on new technologies. The company is expected to use its data-processing resources to investigate age-related maladies and speed up the process from idea to solution that currently slows down the healthcare system.
"Are people really focused on the right things? One of the things I thought was amazing is that if you solve cancer, you'd add about three years to people's average life expectancy," Page told TIME. "We think of solving cancer as this huge thing that'll totally change the world. But when you really take a step back and look at it, yeah, there are many, many tragic cases of cancer, and it's very, very sad, but in the aggregate, it's not as big an advance as you might think."
Unlike the Google Glass project and the company's self-driving car initiative that stem from the company's secretive Google X research arm, Calico will be a completely separate entity from Google Prime. According to Page, Calico will "focus on health and well-being, in particular the challenge of aging and associated diseases."
"Art and I are excited about tackling aging and illness," Page said on Google Plus. "These issues affect us all—from the decreased mobility and mental agility that comes with age, to life-threatening diseases that exact a terrible physical and emotional toll on individuals and families. And while this is clearly a longer-term bet, we believe we can make good progress within reasonable timescales with the right goals and the right people."
Levinson said that when he served on Google's board, he got to know Page rather well, and was "deeply intrigued" when the Google CEO and Bill Maris approached him about a venture that would take the long term view on aging and illness.
"For example, what underlies aging?" Levinson explained on Google Plus. "Might there be a direct link between certain diseases and the aging process? We agreed that with great people, a strong culture and vision and a healthy disregard for the impossible, we could make progress tackling these questions, and improving people's lives."
The company's name is actually an abbreviation for the "California Life Company," he said.