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.
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."