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AbbVie forges $1.5bn ageing disease alliance with Calico

Pharma company partners with Google’s health research business
AbbVie launch

AbbVie has joined forces with Google-backed R&D company Calico in a wide-ranging project to find new therapies for diseases associated with ageing.

Each company is stumping up $250m to get the collaboration underway and set up a Calico R&D facility in the San Francisco Bay area, with the promise of another $500m apiece in future if the project goes well. The primary focus of the 10-year-long venture will be diseases such as neurodegeneration and cancer.

Calico is led by former Genentech chairman and chief executive Art Levinson who - in light of the deal with AbbVie - has just resigned from the board of Genentech parent Roche to avoid any conflict of interest.

The fact that Calico opted to partner with AbbVie and not Roche has raised some eyebrows among investors, particularly as Levinson had been in the running to take over as chairman of Roche, a role eventually taken by Franz Humer.

"We regret Art's decision but at the same time understand his reasons," said Franz in a statement issued this morning.

Google established Calico last year to focus on "health, wellbeing and longevity," with four other former Genentech executives - including former Roche chief medical officer Hal Barron - joining Levinson as the core of the management team.

Under the terms of the AbbVie deal, Calico will handle drug discovery and early drug development, with responsibility for ushering projects through phase IIa trials. AbbVie will take the lead once projects pass the proof-of-concept stage and start down the path towards commercialisation. Profits and costs will be split between the two businesses

Levinson said on his Google Plus page yesterday that the alliance would "turbocharge our efforts… to help people stay healthier for longer."

Calico will start filling critical positions immediately and plans to establish a "substantial team of scientists and research staff" in the coming months, he added.

"We have progressed much faster with Calico than I ever imagined when we started a year ago, and I am tremendously excited about what lies ahead," said Levinson.

Article by
Phil Taylor

4th September 2014

From: Research, Healthcare



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