Calico sheds light on its R&D mission with UCSF partnership

Google's ($GOOG) secretive Calico signed yet another partnership with a world-class research outfit, this time divulging some details that could provide clues on how it plans to attack aging.

In an agreement with UC San Francisco, Calico is paying an undisclosed sum for the rights to some technology from the lab of professor Peter Walter, a 2014 winner of the Lasker Award. Walter's work is focused on modulators of integrated stress response, or ISR, which is a wide range of molecular changes that take place within a cell when it's exposed to environmental hazards. ISR has all sorts of effects on the body, but the Calico-licensed technology is specifically focused on how it leads to cognitive decline, the company said.

In tandem with the license deal, Calico has hired Carmela Sidrauski, a former UCSF research who led ISR research in Walter's lab, pushing forward in hopes of developing a new way to address neurodegeneration tied to aging.

"We are delighted to enter into this agreement with UCSF, and we are excited to translate these research findings into potential treatments for age-related cognitive disorders," Calico R&D President Hal Barron said in a statement. "Peter is a world-class basic scientist whose insights have fundamentally changed our understanding of how cells function under stress."

The UCSF deal stands out as it is just the second time Calico has publicly disclosed a disease target. Since its unstealthing in 2013, the biotech has largely kept quiet, maintaining that it is focused on the scourge of aging and adding little else. Last year, the company entered its first licensing deal, with UT Southwestern, to get its hands on a class of drugs called P7C3 that has shown promise in staving off the death of nerve cells.

The rest of Calico's tie-ups have involved undisclosed projects, but the Bay Area company has been partnering up at a faster clip. Last week, Calico struck a two-pronged deal with California's QB3 to explore the science of longevity and age-related diseases. 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.

- read the statement