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Google launches new health business

Published on 19/09/13 at 08:57am
Franz Humer Roche
Franz Humer, chairman of Roche, welcomed the move which will be led by his firm's director

Google has announced the creation of a new company that will focus on health and well-being, in particular the challenge of ageing and associated diseases.

The firm, named Calico - an abbreviation for the “California Life Company” - will be led and invested in by Arthur Levinson, chairman and former chief executive of Genentech and current chairman of Google's rival internet firm Apple.  

Announcing this new investment Larry Page, Google’s chief executive, said: “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 [Levinson] - one of the leading scientists, entrepreneurs and CEOs of our generation - to take this new venture forward.”

Levinson said: “I’ve devoted much of my life to science and technology, with the goal of improving human health. Larry’s focus on outsized improvements has inspired me, and I’m tremendously excited about what’s next.”

Writing on his Google + page Levinson added: “When I served on Google’s board, and I got to know each other well - and when he and Bill Maris approached me about a venture that would take the long term view on ageing and illness, I was deeply intrigued. For example, what underlies aging? Might there be a direct link between certain diseases and the aging process?

“We agreed that with great people, a strong culture and vision and a healthy disregard for the impossible, we could make progress tackling these questions, and improving people’s lives.”

Google has not yet released detailed information on how this will move forward, how much it would invest in the venture, or what healthcare areas in particular in would focus on.

There is also no mention as yet of what the venture is set to produce in terms of products or services.

But the firm did say that Levinson will remain chairman of Genentech and a director of Roche, which bought the firm in 2009, as well as chairman of Apple.

Commenting on his new role, Franz Humer (pictured), chairman of Roche, said: “[Levinson’s] track record at Genentech has been exemplary, and we see an interesting potential for our companies to work together going forward. We’re delighted he’ll stay on our board.”

Tim Cook, chief executive of Apple, said: “For too many of our friends and family, life has been cut short or the quality of their life is too often lacking. Levinson 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.”

Ben Adams

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