Google's Calico widens its R&D net with QB3 partnership

Calico, the Google-backed biotech with ambitions to decode the aging process, has aligned itself with California's QB3, a Bay Area brain trust, to further flesh out its R&D mission.

Under a four-year partnership, the pair will jointly explore the science of longevity and age-related diseases, with Calico putting up research funding in hopes of spotlighting potential therapies and retaining the right to license any such discovery. The biotech is dividing its support in two, funding a broad collaboration with QB3 on the front end and separately setting up a grant program to bankroll future research at the institute.

The partnership is the latest in a string of handshakes for the secretive Calico, which has been rubbing elbows with scientific luminaries since getting off the ground in 2013. Earlier this month, the San Francisco company teamed up with Harvard and MIT's Broad Institute to collaborate on discovery-stage research, and it's working with AbbVie ($ABBV) on an R&D project that could cost as much as $1.5 billion.

With each deal, Calico has disclosed very little in the way of details, maintaining its focus on the scourge of aging and seeking out scientific partners who can complement its on-board talent.

QB3 Director Regis Kelly

And that's where QB3 fits in. Short for California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences, the consortium is a translational medicine-focused outfit uniting more than 250 scientists at UC San Francisco, UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz. Alongside VC affiliate Mission Bay Capital, the institute has helped launch hundreds of startups from the university's ecosystem, and QB3 is hoping to apply that same mutually beneficial model in its work with Calico, Director Regis Kelly said.

"We are all aging, and we will all benefit from the discoveries made in this program and the therapies that will result," Kelly said in a statement. "... Tackling aging requires a translational perspective and multidisciplinary approach that QB3 is well-placed to coordinate."

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