Calico Extends a Sizable Partnership, Remains Otherwise Uncommunicative

Those of us who do not work at the California Life Company, Calico, have very little idea as to what it is the staff there are up to, at least when it comes to the details. The organization is very heavily funded by the overspill of resources from Alphabet, employs a great many scientists, and - so far as the world peering in from the outside can determine - is engaged in fundamental aging research with the goal of producing pharmaceutical treatments to intervene in the aging process at the end of the day. The little research they have made public is very distant from SENS and the idea of repairing damage, and looks more likely to lead to the same old story of manipulating the operation of metabolism in order to modestly slow the progression of aging.

But it is very hard to say. Calico could be undertaking an energetic senolytics program, or otherwise be working on something quite interesting to the SENS rejuvenation research community. We have no idea. The dominant character of the organization is secrecy: those working there and those in charge say nothing about what they are doing. It makes it hard to criticize the principals on anything other than that count, which might be the intent. That said, I think most of us have by now written off Calico as the second coming of the Ellison Medical Foundation, which is to say a sizable investment in extending the day to day work of the National Institute on Aging, carrying out projects focused on the details of the progression of aging that, while advancing the state of knowledge, are unlikely to produce meaningful therapies at the end of the day.

Even that knowledge, covering the molecular biology of the progression of aging in humans without access to rejuvenation therapies, will be obsolete a few decades from now. It will not actually have helped all that much to bring about the era of rejuvenation therapies. Those therapies will emerge from the SENS-focused and other similarly oriented research communities, those building ways to repair the well-described molecular damage that distinguishes old tissues from young tissues. Creating proficient means of damage repair does not require any great knowledge of how exactly that damage progresses to disease and death: just fix it and observe the outcomes. Further, damage repair will always outperform efforts to tinker with the damaged state without repairing it - and it doesn't much matter whether we are talking about an electronic device, an automobile, or a mammal. The principle is the same. Calico seems like a missed opportunity at this point, some years down the line from its creation.

A monster discovery deal between AbbVie and Google's Calico gets a new lease on the lab, with $1B more to back aging research

Nearly 4 years after AbbVie and Google's fledgling Calico stepped up to the altar of drug science and committed themselves to a $1.5 billion partnership on developing a pipeline of anti-aging drugs, they've decided to renew their vows. And this time they're backing it up with a joint $1 billion pledge - $500 million each - to keep the alliance going for some years to come, with an eye to slowly stepping up the relationship in a move toward the clinic. In a rare public display of affection, the two companies are touting the advance of more than two dozen late discovery projects, with a special focus on cellular stress that they believe has some profound long term implications for human health. Another piece of info: The famously quiet Calico has built a big team of 150-plus around an HQ base in South San Francisco, with plans to add more.

But that's about it. If they are working on a revolution in drug development aimed at putting more life into lengthy spans of living, don't expect any claims along the way about curing cancer, or diabetes, or arthritis in mice. Press execs on what they've been working on, though, and you get pointed to a long lineup of papers Calico has published on their work, but no specifics on the most promising targets in their chosen field. How about the budget? Did they spend the $1.5 billion? Nothing. "We're not going to be specific about molecular targets. It hasn't been in our nature to hype about what we have. What I can tell you is that we are very pleased with the progress of the collaboration. We have a number of potential viable clinical programs. Our interest in aging goes to the basic roots of aging."

Comments

Sigh. If only that power could be used for good.

Posted by: Corbin at June 27th, 2018 5:38 PM

>that we are very pleased with the progress of the collaboration. We have a number of potential viable clinical programs. Our interest in aging goes to the basic roots of aging.

Although they don't openly endorse SENS ,and Aubrey doesn't like their approach and attitude, calico has some smart guys and good financing. On top of that it was Co- founded by Kurzweil, who is not getting any younger. Although, he thinks that in a few years we will have nano bots delivering treatments.

I am pretty sure they closely monitor the field and understand the SENS approach. Probably they have a different emphasise on the approach and the priority but it is unlikely they are delusional or stupid . So let's see if they will look for low hanging fruits with marginal benefits or something more profound

Posted by: Cuberat at June 27th, 2018 7:47 PM

Calico's work on Biomarkers of aging may turn out to be useful.

I know that the Elison Medical Foundation didn't achieve much, other than a broadening of general knowledge about metabolism, but they did throw a bit of money towards the Mayo Clinic group who went on to demonstrate the benefits of senescent cell removal in mice. So even though Calico is not doing damage repair research, they will probably still be a small net positive. It is just a shame that all their resources will not go to damage repair.

Calcio will probably also throw their hat into the senescent cell removal ring at some point. Right now senescent cell removal looks like a slam dunk - just remove the cells and reap the benefits, but 20-30 years ago both gene therapy and amyloid beta removal looked like fairly straight forward paths to results, yet encountered decades of technical difficulties. Calico failing along with everyone else in senescent cell removal will hopefully get the science closer to resolving the as yet unknown technical difficulties in this area.

Posted by: Jim at June 27th, 2018 9:06 PM

Cuberat, I did not know Kurzweil was part author of this Calico. I know he works there (Google), but thought he works on the AI and brain research.

Posted by: Robert at June 27th, 2018 9:08 PM

Stands to reason Calcio is using AI on big data. I think it only makes sense that they are; it doesn't make sense that they are not. I also have a theory that the secrecy is to avoid scrutiny over their use of the data.

Posted by: NY2LA at June 27th, 2018 11:17 PM

NY2LA: It's unlikely. Its researchers, including the CSO, are geneticists, not programmers. It looks a lot more like an extension of the NIA research than big data research.

Posted by: Antonio at June 28th, 2018 2:26 AM

@Robert
He shared in front of students that he first co-started califo and soon we're situated by Google for language processing. He wanted to concentrate on longevity research, so how proper to buy calico and poor so MN even cash.

He is still advisor on Calico's board.
I cannot find that interview but here is a link that has an About section

http://www.kurzweilai.net/genius-ray-kurzweil-on-google-and-the-singularity

Here's an older link that shows the mind set

https://www.fastcompany.com/3032405/googles-ray-kurzweil-the-business-of-extending-human-life-is-going-into-high-

He is definitely anti death and hopes to reach LEV and he's quite old, so he has real stake in the game

Posted by: Cuberat at June 28th, 2018 7:56 AM

@Cuberat, "he's quite old";) hmm, so I assume you are in your 30's give or take 10 years. I think he is about 70 (IMO, quite old is over 80), cause he's about 12 years above me. Yea, I read several of his books, and he takes well over 50 vitamins per day, plus IV once a week. I tried reading his brain book, but it was over my head. Thanks for the links.

Posted by: Robert at June 28th, 2018 11:24 AM

@Robert
>I assume you are in your 30's give or take 10 years
Alas it is rather give than take. 43 and for the last year I started feeling old. Nothing of clinical significance yet , can feel it

> I think he is about 70 (IMO, quite old is over 80

After Googling he is exactly 70. I thought he was 5 years older. And initially wanted to type rush he is not getting any younger but that wouldn't convey the sense of urgency . He has diabetes under control and tries to live healthy lifestyle, take supplements and does superficial fasting. So we can say that he agrees gracefully ( what some would call healthy aging)

Nevertheless the us make life expectancy is 78. . He is rich, tries to live healthy live and self experiments. So you can add 10-15 more years of life expectancy. For the first LE treatments to work reasonably well ( so you can survive until the next available option) they should be administrer at least 10 years before you would die without them. So he didn't have much time left to Jane good chances for LEV.
Probably 8 more years until the first Working therapy, and after that every flu could be deadly without rejuvenation.

So in immediate term he might be interested in metabolism tweaking but after 8-10 years only repair and rejuvenation would make any difference. And he DOES expect such therapies to exist within 10 years. So that's a strong motivating force to steer Calico in SENS 's direction.

As for his books he tends to be over optimistic and we have to discount the rate of change 2 to 4 times since 2005. What is amazing he saw the trans in early nineties or even before.

Posted by: Cuberat at June 28th, 2018 12:54 PM

@Antonio Here's a rare indication that Calico is using I.A.:

"'Daphne [Daphne Koller] has been instrumental in helping to build our machine learning and computing infrastructure and has made many important contributions as we aim to bring the vast capabilities of machine learning to bear on advancing our understanding of the biological mechanisms by which we age,' Calico spokesman Neil Cohen said."

https://www.information-management.com/articles/alphabet-loses-top-ai-researcher-at-anti-aging-unit-calico

Posted by: NY2LA at June 28th, 2018 3:30 PM

the James Damore firing and fiasco make clear that the tech giants such as Google are far too "converged" with political and other non-productive employees that it is likely that they are no longer capable of doing any of their "moonshot" objectives such as anti-aging research or the development of self-driving cars. Thus, I would not expect any useful research or technology to come out of efforts such as Calico. I would not waste my time with these efforts. I recommend you support efforts such as SENS Foundation instead.

Posted by: Abelard Lindsey at June 28th, 2018 3:57 PM

@Abelard

He was spending too much of company's time on pushing his views and made a lot of noise. At Rusty point Google had no choice but to get rid of him. There was a public outcry and Google cannot air to have negative image with a large segment of the population. Of course the real message to the employees is to never publish politically sensitive memos under you true name.

Rich and smart people have their own egomaniac echo chamber and might be delusional. Yet they still have huge resources at their disposal and the energy to push the projects. And the fact that calico is quite secretive is an indication that they are up to singing they think is real. Otherwise we cold have been drawned in hype intend for the investors

Posted by: Cuberat at June 28th, 2018 4:20 PM

@NY2LA: Interesting. Anyway, from what she says, they don't seem to be using AI on big data (like medical databases) but as help for laboratory tasks (like counting or classifying cells).

Posted by: Antonio at June 28th, 2018 4:53 PM

Cuberat,

I was not making any value-statement about Damore's firing. I was commenting on the dysfunctional corporate culture that Damore highlighted to the world in his emails. No matter the financial resources available to put to a problem, I do not believe that any organization infested with the dysfunctionality that Damore described is capable of any meaningful innovation. And, no, being quite secretive is not necessarily an indicator of real innovation. Consider that Theranos was highly secretive and they never accomplished anything real in its 14 years of existence.

Posted by: Abelard Lindsey at June 28th, 2018 6:04 PM

What we need to fear from CaLiCo is the abuse of the patent system to slow development of SENS technology. Their should be a "patent watch" in the biomedical sphere to make sure they are not blocking lines of research.

Posted by: Tom Schaefer at June 29th, 2018 11:01 AM

@Antonio: Seems to me Calico is obviously using AI on database(s) of human genomic data:

"AncestryDNA and Calico will work together to analyze and investigate the role of genetics and its influences in families experiencing unusual longevity using Ancestry's proprietary databases, tools and algorithms."

https://www.calicolabs.com/news/2015/07/21/

Posted by: NY2LA at June 29th, 2018 12:07 PM

Calico is a big fail, that is what we can say for now. Its CSO is a merely old basic researcher who don't believe that ageing can be treated in any way. For what they can spend such enormous money? For prolonging life of flies via manipulation of gene? Even such freak like Jay Olshansky believes they spend money in wrong way.

Posted by: Ariel at June 29th, 2018 1:07 PM

I prefer to remain optimistic. Since I cannot divert their money to the Sens foundation (would if I could), I can take a little bit of comfort in this statement:

"Our interest in aging goes to the basic roots of aging."

On second thought, I guess that sounds more like a focus causation than repairing, doesn't it?

Posted by: bmack500 at June 29th, 2018 3:11 PM

@bmack500, you are right -- they do not (publicly, at least) intend to make any real rejuvenation therapy for fixing the causes of ageing -- molecular and cellular damage.

Posted by: Ariel at June 29th, 2018 7:51 PM

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