Google and Apple Team Up to Fight Aging

Google has its hand in pretty much everything. From search engines to social networking, and now…aging? It’s true: Google has teamed up with Apple in an effort to fight aging through a new initiative called Calico (California Life Company). Calico’s entire mission is to prolong life — with a focus on health and well-being, and particularly, how technology has a positive impact on aging and aging-associated diseases. The main focus will be on diseases such as Alzheimer’s, cancer and heart disease.

Apple, Genentech Chairman Arthur D. Levinson to Head Calico

The effort will be headed by Arthur D. Levinson, chairman and former CEO of Genentech and chairman of Apple, a founding investor who will also serve as the company’s CEO. Levinson will continue to be chairman of Apple and Genentech, in addition to continuing to hold his spot as director of Hoffmann-La Roche. (Side note: It has yet to be revealed how Levinson will manage to find the time to essentially head four major corporations, but perhaps his attempt at the humanly impossible will reveal some clues as to how to slow the aging process.)

Google’s CEO, Larry Page, shares his excitement about what Levinson can bring to the table at Calico in a statement: “Illness and aging affect all our families. With some longer term, moonshot thinking around healthcare and biotechnology, I believe we can improve millions of lives. It’s impossible to imagine anyone better than Art—one of the leading scientists, entrepreneurs and CEOs of our generation—to take this new venture forward.”

What Exactly is Calico’s Approach?

But here’s the thing: No one really knows exactly what Calico will be doing, and anyone who has an inside scoop isn’t spilling any details. It’s not really clear what type of approach Google intends to take to tackle aging. Software? Apps? Diagnostics? It seems some are speculating that Calico will take a “big-data approach” to the problem by amassing huge amounts of data from patients and then conducting sophisticated analysis to advance research. Prevention might also be a major focus.

Calico: Not Just Another Google Health

And this isn’t Google’s first foray into the healthcare scene. Google Health, which aimed to empower patient decision-making through better access to information, was shut down on January 1, 2013. Google didn’t wait long to re-enter the health niche with the announcement of Calico less than a year later.

Google Health, originally launched in 2008, allowed users to upload or import their healthcare records, have prescriptions filled, get lab results, and even get text alerts when it was time to take medications. Calico appears to be taking a broader approach that’s more focused on the big picture of researching, diagnosing, and preventing the diseases associated with aging — rather than a focus on the patient-management side of the puzzle.

According to an article in TechCrunch, one of Calico’s main focuses is to “dramatically extend human life,” by about 100 years. And because today’s patients are more health-savvy (25 percent of smartphone users have downloaded at least one health-related app, and 60 percent of adults seek health info online, TechCrunch says), Calico is hopefully entering the scene at the right time.

While Calico is an interesting avenue for Google to take, one thing’s for sure: If Google sets its mind to it, it’ll happen. It might take a few failed attempts — but Google always rises each time it falls.

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Post by Angela Stringfellow

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