Calico Website Launched

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.



"We will use that knowledge to devise interventions that enable people to lead longer and healthier lives."

The words "interventions" and "healthier" sound rather good to me.

Posted by: Nico at August 11th, 2014 8:08 AM

There is hopefully enough philanthropic funding out there to demonstrate that the Mayo clinics' germline genetic engineering approach to removing senescent cells has health and lifespan benefits in ordinary mice, and then perhaps primate models.

I really hope that someone demonstrates a drug or gene therapy approach that is applicable in animals already born and humans. Maybe after that general industry will pick this up and run with it?

Posted by: Jim at August 11th, 2014 10:53 AM

Since Ray K. works at Google of which Calico is created from, you would think he could influance powers that be to explore the SENS method of repairing the damaged that ageing causes. Given that he is in his middle 60's and takes a gazillon pills plus IV's once a week I would think he would be motivated and has the influance to sway Calico to move in the right direction.

Posted by: Robert C. at August 11th, 2014 4:04 PM

@Robert C.: the fact that Raymond K. ingests boatloads of pills isn't reassuring, actually. I picture those who follow such diet as proponents of calorie reduction and whatnot.

Posted by: Nico at August 11th, 2014 6:55 PM

So much lost potential.

Sergey Brin and Larry Page have a combined wealth of over 60 billion dollars. They could write SENS a blank cheque and it would be nothing to them.

Posted by: Link at August 12th, 2014 1:38 AM

Well, I thought they are smart people, and apparently they are not that smart if they are still working on the traditional path. That is nothing groundbreaking.

Hopefully others will come into the aging field and do the right thing instead.

Posted by: Jason at August 12th, 2014 9:52 AM

Slow aging AND cure age-related diseases? That's two doomed approaches for the price of one, folks. We can only hope that this borderline content-free website was written by PR people and isn't really indicative of what they're planning.

Posted by: José at August 12th, 2014 11:20 AM

I'm not really too surprised given the fact they've employed people like Cynthia Kenyon. These sort of people favor the slow aging approach and I, like you all, think it's a complete waste of time.

If we want this (SENS research) to happen we need some kind of register of SENS monthly subscribers, specifically the number, not the names of people that subscribe. We all want to see the support for SENS grow but there needs to be a point of reference that is maintained otherwise we have no idea of where we stand and therefore what needs to be done.

As smart as we all are (or think we are) no one seems to appreciate arithmetic. For example 5000 * 20 = 100,000 and 100,000 * 12 = 1.2 million. It might sound like a hard ask getting 5000 people to start donating but if there isn't that kind of number in the 7 billion people on earth then we should give up right now.

Posted by: Michael-2 at August 14th, 2014 5:31 AM

I would like to see just 1 respected expert in aging publicly disagree with the methodology that Calico is going to try to employ. I know of course that Aubrey has done so, but do his ideas have the respect in the community of experts? Let's hear from the SENS scientific advisory board. Any person commenting here can sit back and criticize Ellison's efforts, and Calico's, but I would love to witness a real debate about:

1) the goal of aging research -- is it to increase healthspan and by how much ?
2) is the damage theory of aging really legitimate?
3) why would experts at Calico not espouse this ?

For most of us I would guess we are laymen...someone bright like Aubrey could persuade us that SENS is intuitively correct...until an expert comes along and says, "Maybe, but what about X,Y,and Z?"

I doubt that Ray K has an opinion that would be considered at Calico...heck, Larry and Sergey's opinion is likely not very well-informed either, compared to the Experts they've hired...although 100% hats-off to them for their vision. Remember, they were not concerned about the 'extra few years of life' that some efforts would produce.

There must be, at Calico, a certain element of trust in Art Levinson and Co...let the experts debate, though!!

I'm ready for the "moonshot" that we hear so much about. Is this debate simply about methodology?


Posted by: Eugene at August 14th, 2014 10:27 AM

Most people would also love to see debate about the methodology, however, even in so called debates the SENS Methodology is rarely, if ever, mentioned.

1. The goal of aging research - is it to increase health-span?

Well we better hope so otherwise the goal would be to decrease it or leave health-span alone. Never-the-less you are right to ask the question because even intelligent scientists have the antiquated idea that health-span and lifespan are mutually exclusive.

2. Is the damage theory of aging really legitimate?

To examine this question we would have to ask whether the static and accumulating damages collated by de Grey equate to the various maladies of old age. If they are the cause of the various age related diseases how could the damage theory of aging not be legitimate?

3. Why would experts at Calico not espouse this ?

Because they have institutionalised thinking around conventional gerontology. This favours the idea that some kind of simple intervention or interventions can slow aging. This idea is hampered by the fact conventional conventional Gerontology doesn't have a universal or concrete definition of what aging actually is.

Aubrey de Grey is an expert on aging an anyone who would say otherwise is ignorant on the topic of Gerontology. If you want to hear from someone you consider an expert I suggest you email that person and await their response.

Posted by: Michael-2 at August 14th, 2014 10:17 PM

Everyone: please give Calico a bit more time to find their feet and their direction. I have great admiration for Cynthia Kenyon and she has considerable respect for SENS too. The rest of the Calico team are new to gerontology and are looking to form a truly rounded view of the problem and the available directions before deciding their priorities. I wish as much as anyone that they would get on and start spending serious money ASAP, but I took five years to get from knowing what Art Levinson did when Calico was launched to the point of deciding on SENS, so I also kinda relate. For now, I would simply draw everyone's attention to the word "interdisciplinary" in the blurb quoted above.

Posted by: Aubrey de Grey at August 19th, 2014 11:58 AM

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