Google's California Life Company has launched a stub website. The sparse information presented there is supportive of the view that Calico will be taking the Longevity Dividend path of focusing on genetics, metabolic manipulation, and standard issue drug discovery. This will look a lot like a continuation of sirtuin research, which is to say that they will spend a lot of money, generate a lot of data, and utterly fail to produce ways to meaningfully extend healthy human life. That is a fairly safe prediction for the outcome of any well-funded project that is not trying to build repair-based technologies to revert the causes of aging, but rather intends to alter the operation of metabolism to gently slow aging. Metabolism is immensely complex and poorly understood, and there is no well-defined course towards results that is analogous to the SENS plans for repair-based approach. A billion dollars and fifteen years has been spent on simply trying to reproduce a fraction of the most understood form of natural metabolic alteration that enhances longevity, the response to calorie restriction, with no good results. For that time and money we could have a demonstration of rejuvenation in mice via SENS therapies already.
Genetics is hot and drug discovery is safe and understood by investors. So as interest in treating aging is rising, we see funds raised and ventures started for groups trying to perform drug development based on genetic studies of aging and longevity. This is not because it has a hope of meaningful results, but because it is where funds can be raised, and where money can be made in the traditional Big Pharma fashion even without achieving any great extension of human longevity. In the Longevity Dividend viewpoint an ambitious goal is to add seven years of life expectancy over the next two decades through new drugs that alter metabolism - which is a miserable failure and a grand missed opportunity when compared to the indefinite extension of healthy life that might be attained by realizing comprehensive repair therapies for the damage that causes aging.
This is all disappointing, but that has been the signal all along as to where things were going with Calico: it is a project that may turn out to look a lot like a more highly publicized version of the Ellison Medical Foundation, in that it is simply adding more of the work already taking place at the NIA and elsewhere that is destined from the start to fail to advance human longevity. Its existence helps those elsewhere who are trying to raise funds to tackle aging, as it shifts conservative funding institutions in a direction of supporting such work, but that is about it.
To my eyes all of this reinforces the need to demonstrate beyond a doubt that repair approaches to reverse aging do in fact work, and work very much better and for far less cost of development than metabolic alteration. The way in which repair-based approaches will take over the mainstream of research is by showing that they produce compelling results at a time in which the other approaches are failing to do anything other than generate data and consume resources. The nearest approach to that point for the purposes of convincing people who support slowing aging but are not on board with aiming for rejuvenation is probably the targeted destruction of senescent cells, but even there it has been hard to raise funding for continued work and the reliance is on philanthropy to run the present study in normal rather than accelerated aging mice.
We're tackling aging, one of life's greatest mysteries.
Calico is a research and development company whose mission is to harness advanced technologies to increase our understanding of the biology that controls lifespan. We will use that knowledge to devise interventions that enable people to lead longer and healthier lives. Executing on this mission will require an unprecedented level of interdisciplinary effort and a long-term focus for which funding is already in place.
We are scientists from the fields of medicine, drug development, molecular biology, and genetics. Through our research we're aiming to devise interventions that slow aging and counteract age‑related diseases. Understanding the fundamental science underlying aging and finding cures for the intractable diseases associated with aging require time, deep technical expertise, research and partnerships. We're just getting started and will post career opportunities here when they become available.