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Google taps ex-Genentech CEO to lead its new health company

Says Calico will have particular focus on diseases associated with ageing
Digital Intelligence

Google has set up a new health and wellness company to tackle the challenge of ageing and associated diseases and has recruited former Genentech CEO Arthur Levinson to lead it.

Levinson, who is a founding investor in Calico, will remain as Genentech's chairman and a director of its parent company Roche.

The pharma company's chairman Franz Humer praised Levinson's “exemplary” track record at Genentech, adding: “We see an interesting potential for our companies to work together going forward.”

The area has already attracted industry interest, from the likes of GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, Novartis and J&J, though earlier this year the WHO called on pharma to invest more in researching drugs for older people.

Google's new company Calico will focus on issues ranging from the decreased mobility and mental agility that come with age, to life-threatening diseases, but the internet giant is not expecting any quick wins from its new outfit.

CEO Larry Page said: “Illness and ageing affect all our families. 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.”

Levinson added: “I've devoted much of my life to science and technology, with the goal of improving human health. Larry's focus on outsized improvements has inspired me, and I'm tremendously excited about what's next.”

In addition to retaining posts with Genentech and Roche, Levinson will also continue in his role as chairman of Apple, and the technology company gave the move its blessings.

Its CEO, Tim Cook, said: “For too many of our friends and family, life has been cut short or the quality of their life is too often lacking. Art is one of the crazy ones who thinks it doesn't have to be this way. There is no one better suited to lead this mission and I am excited to see the results.”

In a post to the company's Google Plus social network, Page acknowledged that setting up Calico was “a lot different from what Google does today”, but also tried to put the move into perspective.

“Please remember that new investments like this are very small by comparison to our core business,” he said.

It's not the company's first foray into health, though its online health system Google Health was shuttered in January 2012 after the cloud-based electronic health record system failed to catch on.

Nevertheless, setting up Calico – announced in a Time article, understatedly titled 'Google Vs Death' – has the potential to be blue-sky thinking of a greater magnitude than Google's experiments with self-driving cars and Google Glass augmented reality spectacles.

19th September 2013

From: Healthcare

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