Google’s primary business is based around selling advertising. It has a broad range of products that contribute towards this, including Google Search, Android, YouTube and Maps, and it’s great to see the founders aligning their business towards greater human projects, such as extending basic internet connectivity to the five billion or so people in the world who don’t have it. Sure; this increases their market, but it also improves the quality of life. Larry Page demonstrated this in this YouTube clip about a farmer discovering how to save his crops. But a little under a year ago, Google announced it was forming a new business called Calico (California Life Company). Calico’s mission is to use advanced bio-technologies to improve lifespan. Essentially, they’re trying to slow down the aging process.
Calico have today announced a joint venture with a bio-pharmaceutical company called AbbVie. The plan could result in a $1.5 billion research and development center at an undetermined location. The focus of the new facility will be the discovery and early development of drugs used to combat neuro-degenerative diseases and cancer. This ties in with Calico’s simplistic wider aim of increasing lifespan. Both partners are investing $250 million up front with the option to increase this by another $500 million at some point in the future. Calico will handle the first five years of drug development and AbbVie will handle late stage development and marketing to make the drugs a commercial success. Profits (and expenses) will be split between the two businesses.
We should all be familiar with neuro-degenerative diseases because ALS is one of them: you did know that the ice bucket challenge was to raise money to research ALS, right? The list also includes Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, but there are many other lower profile examples of the genre. Arguably, degenerative diseases are the most painful to watch a loved one suffer. Drug development is extremely expensive and a typical drug will cost hundreds of millions of dollars over the fifteen or so years of development so Calico and AbbVie’s investment is very welcome. It is very much a long term project, but any successful drugs will be beneficial to humanity. A blockbuster drug is almost a license to print money. Ultimately, I sincerely hope that none of our readers are in the unfortunate position of having to rely on a drug to combat a degenerative disease but if this happens, there’s some reassurance to see that Google’s on it.