Google introduces Calico, a moonshot idea that could actually make life better

September 18, 2013
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Larry Page

Today, Google is introducing Calico, which they refer to as a company focussed on “health and well-being, in particular the challenge of aging and associated diseases.” Heading the new company is Art Levinson, an Apple chairman and former CEO (and current chairman) of Genentech. Levinson will be CEO and a founding investor of Calico, which stands for “California Life Company”, but Levinson notes in his Google+ post that making reference to cats with nine lives is great, too.

Larry Page, co-founder and CEO of Google, had this to say about Calico:

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.

Levinson went on to add “Larry’s focus on outsized improvements has inspired me, and I’m tremendously excited about what’s next.” Rounding out the triumvirate of support, current Apple CEO Tim Cook added “For too many of our friends and family, life has been cut short or the quality of their life is too often lacking. Art is one of the crazy ones who thinks it doesn’t have to be this way. There is no one better suited to lead this mission and I am excited to see the results.”

In an interview with Time, Page — who famously has vocal cord damage, and is reluctant to give many interviews — was taciturn about Calico’s reach and scope. Like many of Google’s ventures into a new territory, the driving force is a perceived problem, not means to a solution. Google is as committed to the voyage as they are the results, and Calico should be no different. “In some industries, it takes 10 or 20 years to go from an idea to something being real.” Page said. “Health care is certainly one of those areas. We should shoot for the things that are really, really important, so 10 or 20 years from now we have those things done.”

There is no laser-focussed goal yet, but Calico is supported by a group of people who have a visceral interest in what’s accomplished. Levinson is dedicated to health, and Page has a very personal reason for seeing this through. Even Cook, who watched a friend and mentor pass away slowly, tipped his hat to Jobs in calling Levinson “one of the crazy ones”.

All Google moonshot ideas have one guiding principle: changing lives. This one may be the best yet.

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