Google's ($GOOG) life-extension biotech Calico has secured access to data held by Ancestry.com, a family tree business that sells DNA testing kits. Calico will pick through the genetic data and millions of family trees in search of contributors to long life spans and drug targets.
The deal gives Calico access to another source of data--the lifeblood of its parent company--to use in its ambitious push to fight aging. Calico has released few details of what its A-list team is working on in California, but the Ancestry.com relationship fits neatly with perceptions of how a biotech set up by Google will operate. Number-crunching underpins all of Google's wildly divergent interests, and in Ancestry.com, Calico has found a large, ready-made source of genetic data and supporting details of each person's life span.
Ancestry.com has built the resource by selling $99 DNA testing kits and providing a way for users to create family trees. "Now that we've got 1 million samples, there's enough statistical power in the dataset to elucidate drug targets," Ken Chahine, Ancestry's executive vice president and head of DNA and health, told Bloomberg. "If you aggregate a set of individuals who had long-lived families and we have their genetic information as well, that's a way to start making hypotheses about the heritability of longevity.
The use of the data in biopharma R&D pushes Ancestry.com into a field more commonly associated with one of its DNA testing rivals, 23andMe. What differentiates Ancestry.com--and makes it a good fit for Calico--is its wealth of data on life spans, relationships and locations that is housed in its tens of millions of family trees. As it stands, 23andMe has the edge in phenotypic data, but Ancestry.com is considering setting up a health-focused DNA testing service and recently started allowing users to create family health histories.
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