AbbVie takes 'leap into the unknown' with Google tie-up

Google's headquarters--courtesy of Google
Google's headquarters--Courtesy of Google

While the outside world still has little idea what Google's ($GOOG) biotech Calico is planning, AbbVie ($ABBV) has seen enough to convince it to commit at least $250 million to the startup. The sizable bet on the well-resourced but early-stage Calico was described by one observer as "a big leap into the unknown for AbbVie."

Regenerative medicine researcher Aubrey de Grey made the comments to The Wall Street Journal, adding that "Google is used to leaping into the unknown but AbbVie is not." To some extent all drug discovery involves a leap into the unknown, but the ambition expressed by Google in the founding of Calico suggests it will push things further than the typical biotech startup. Then again, it has money and experience that far exceed the resources at most biotechs.

AbbVie and Calico are both investing $250 million to establish an R&D site somewhere in the Bay Area of San Francisco, the SF Business Times reports. Each partner could commit a further $500 million to the collaboration, which will see Calico take responsibility for R&D and early clinical trials. AbbVie then has the option to take over for Phase III and marketing of the drug, freeing Calico to focus on taking candidates to clinical proof of concept.

Exactly where Calico will locate its lab and what it will do there is still unclear, but a picture of an IT-enabled, omics-focused operation has emerged from media reports and early hiring at the startup. More details should emerge as Calico begins adding staff to work alongside its existing small group of big-name scientists. One report suggests Calico plans to swell its workforce to 150 people.

- read the WSJ article
- here's the SF Business Times' piece
- and FierceBiotech's take