Google sheds glancing light on Calico, its anti-aging biotech

The logo for Calico, Google's anti-aging biotech

Calico, Google's ($GOOG) first major foray into biotech, has been quietly filling its ranks and fleshing out its mission in the months since its existence first came to light, and the company's new website provides a few sparing details on the aging-focused outfit's way forward.

To date the company's interaction with the public has been limited to vague pronouncements in Time and a few posts on Google Plus, its parent's also-ran social network. Now, in unveiling a website, the hushy biotech is disclosing more than ever before on its nebulous reason for being.

The plan is to "harness advanced technologies to increase our understanding of the biology that controls lifespan," according to Calico's site, using "that knowledge to devise interventions that enable people to lead longer and healthier lives." Pulling that off "will require an unprecedented level of interdisciplinary effort and a long-term focus for which funding is already in place," according to the company.

(That last part about money, considering Google's profitability and CEO Larry Page's passion for "moonshot" R&D projects, probably went without saying.)

But while the new site lacks any clear-cut goals--Calico still has yet to say whether it plans to develop drugs, devices or any other tangible objects--it does provide some clues about how the company will approach its research.

For one, the company has promoted University of California, San Francisco, oncology professor Cynthia Kenyon from part-time adviser to vice president of aging research, signaling that it's moving right along with its R&D efforts.

And perhaps most telling is Calico's hiring of Jonathan Lewis, who will serve as vice president of business development after filling the same role at UCB and, like Calico leaders Art Levinson and Hal Barron, doing a long stint at Genentech. Lewis will be in charge of "supporting the company's growth through partnerships and collaborations," Calico said, its first affirmation of a willingness to work with other biotechs.

Kenyon and Lewis join a list of full-timers that includes CEO Levinson, the former head of Genentech; R&D President Barron, who most recently did the same job at Roche ($RHHBY); Chief Scientific Officer David Botstein, a former Princeton genomics professor; and Robert Cohen, a former oncology researcher at Genentech whose new job, as Calico fellow, "spans R&D and business development," according to the company.

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