Google begins hiring team to lead Calico

Calico R&D President Hal Barron

It is now two months since Google ($GOOG) sparked speculation by unveiling vague but ambitious plans to enter the biotech sector. Details of what the spinout, called Calico, will do are still limited, but we now know some of the people who will run the show. Unsurprisingly, Google has poached some heavy hitters.

Calico CEO Art Levinson has hired his former Genentech colleague Hal Barron to run R&D at the startup. Barron joined Genentech in 1996, shortly after Levinson was named CEO, and was given a position at Roche ($RHHBY) when the Swiss pharma bought the biotech. Now, he is stepping down as chief medical officer at Roche to rejoin Levinson and run the still undefined R&D activities at Calico.

The other hires confirm some suspicions about what Levinson is building. Renowned Princeton University geneticist David Botstein has joined Calico as chief scientific officer, and life-extension expert Cynthia Kenyon has signed up as an advisor. The backgrounds of Botstein and Kenyon are well-suited to Calico's goal of extending human life and tackling aging-related illnesses.

Another of Levinson's former Genentech colleagues, Bob Cohen, has also joined Calico. The appointment of Cohen suggests Calico, for all its focus on long-term scientific goals, has one eye on the business side of the organization. Cohen spent almost 20 years at Genentech, and has now taken on similar responsibilities spanning R&D and business development as a Calico Fellow.

The obvious gap in the capabilities of the appointees is computer programming and bioinformatics. When Google unveiled its plans for Calico, many assumed it would tap into the search giant's data-crunching capabilities, but so far the appointments have focused on adding genetics and molecular biology skills.

- read FierceBiotech's take
- here's Levinson's post