Google adds UCSF geneticist to Calico's roster

Calico's Cynthia Kenyon--Courtesy of UCSF

In the months since details of Google's ($GOOG) Calico last leaked into the public domain, the creation of a new J. Craig Venter company has further increased interest in anti-aging. And while Calico has been out of the headlines, it has continued to build out its anti-aging dream team, with a University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) geneticist the latest to join.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports Cynthia Kenyon left UCSF last month to join Calico. Kenyon was linked to Calico in media reports last year and has advised the startup part-time during its first few months. Hiring Kenyon full time gives Calico anti-aging expertise to complement the team of biotech insiders--such as Art Levinson and Hal Barron--it has already built. Kenyon has studied aging since the 1980s. In 1993 she increased interest in the nascent field by showing a genetic alteration doubled the lifespan of roundworms.

Over the past few years, Kenyon's UCSF lab has published papers with titles like "A Role for Autophagy in the Extension of Lifespan by Dietary Restriction" and "Widespread Protein Aggregation as an Inherent Part of Aging." While the work has focused on a roundworm, Kenyon has previously shown ambitions to translate the anti-aging science into therapies. In 1999 Kenyon co-founded Boston, MA-based biotech Elixir Pharmaceuticals, which inked a $500 million biobuck deal with Novartis ($NVS) in 2009. The hoped-for buyout by Novartis never materialized, though, and Elixir has now closed.

Elixir was affected by the recession that curtailed its IPO plans, but Calico should be free of such cash concerns. "[Google] really wants to pull together initially a very small group of people who have worldwide reputations," UCLA tech M&A specialist George Geis told The Chronicle.

- read The Chronicle's scoop
- here's VentureBeat's take