How can I invest in curing aging
Curing cancer is a task too small for Larry Page. The Google founder, 42 years old with a graying head, has decided on something bigger. He wants to stop aging. Death. "One of the things that I find amazing is the fact that you add around three years to the average human life expectancy if you solve cancer," he philosophized in an interview with the magazine Time. "We always think that the solution to cancer is this big thing that is going to completely change the world. But if you take a step back and look at it, there are very, very many tragic cancer cases, and that is very, very very sad, but overall that would not be as big a step forward as you think. "
The man who sorts the world's information sees himself as a visionary. He invented Google with his co-founder Sergey Brin in 1998 to make knowledge accessible to the masses. Google knows our data and our worries and thus also the greatest concern of humanity: death. Life expectancy has doubled since 1840 and is increasing by one year every four years. But the fact remains that our end is waiting after a few decades. Nobody has yet invented a pill against aging. Our society arose around this knowledge. And as old as the primal fear of death is the dream of eternal life, in which death is not inevitable but can be cured like a disease.
In 2013, Google founded a subsidiary called California Life Company, Calico. "We are tackling aging, one of life's greatest mysteries" is the company's mission, and nobody really knows what it is doing. Previously, Calico was a Google subsidiary, now it is becoming a Google sister. Page is currently completely rebuilding the group and is sorting all business areas under a holding company called Alphabet. Google becomes one of the holding companies, Calico one of the others, and there are also companies that deal with topics such as self-driving cars or supplying the world with Internet access via drones. They should all have more freedom and independence than before under the alphabet umbrella. And if they write high losses, it won't damage Google's business figures. Page named these side projects "Moon Shots" because they are so visionary. And hardly any of the Moon Shots are about as much as Calico: death itself.
For many years it was a difficult struggle to convince scientists of the feasibility of curing death, writes the biomedical scientist and geriatric researcher Aubrey de Gray in an essay. "Since Google's decision to use its astronomical resources for a targeted attack on aging, this struggle could be overcome: if financial restrictions are removed, curmudgeons no longer play a role." Page brought together the best researchers for his biggest Moon Shot Calico. Above all, the molecular biologist Arthur Levinson, known as Art, one of the pioneers of Silicon Valley and today Apple's supervisory board chairman. He's the boss of Calico. For doctors, scientists and those with an affinity for technology, the 65-year-old is a person of respect and a genius in the field of biotechnology. As a child he was enthusiastic about physics and astronomy, and later studied biochemistry. In 1980 he came to the biotech company Genentech, where he initially headed drug research and was then chairman of the company's board of directors and later for almost 20 years. New and breakthrough therapies became his trademark, such as the cancer drugs Avastin and Herceptin. The funds are tailored to the genome and have a targeted effect. The drugs are marketed by the Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche, which Genentech took over in 2009 and which has benefited from Levinson's research enthusiasm to this day.
At Calico, Levinson brought together cell biologists, oncologists, biochemists and cardiologists. He keeps the exact goals and methods of his company under lock and key. But there is a research alliance with the pharmaceutical company Abbvie on age-related diseases such as cancer and the loss of nerve cells. With this, Calico is targeting the so-called four apocalyptic horsemen of geriatrics: cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, dementia, from which most people die today. Together, the companies want to invest up to $ 1.5 billion in a joint research center in the greater San Francisco area. Calico is responsible for basic research, Abbvie for implementation and commercial expertise. When a product will be created that can be sold, when and whether Calico will ever make money, remains unclear.
Time magazine dedicated a cover story to Calico back in 2013. The headline was "Google vs. Death". "I'm not suggesting that we should put all of our money into such speculative things," says Page in it. "But we should spend a reasonable sum (...) On things that are a little more long-term and a little more ambitious." According to media reports, Google has already put $ 730 million in Calico. Pages logic becomes clear: If not Google, who will? Who else has the money and skills to stop aging?
... and, according to the Federal Statistical Office, life expectancy for girls born today in Germany is ten months. Boys have 77 years and nine months ahead of them. Since the late 1980s, their life expectancy has improved by six years, for girls by four years and nine months.
Google has no expertise in life extension. But the group is good at collecting and evaluating large amounts of data, which is becoming more and more a core task of doctors and scientists. Calico has just announced a partnership with Ancestry, a website that allows Americans to enter their family trees - including some medical and genetic information. Calico gets access to more than a million anonymized DNA pieces of information. Evaluating such data and finding common ground among those who have lived particularly long, for example, is one of Google's core competencies. And Google - or Calico - brings the mindset of Silicon Valley into medicine: There is nothing that technology and data processing cannot solve.
The big pharmaceutical companies like Roche, Novartis, Merck and Pfizer are less interested in a longer life expectancy than in fighting diseases. After all, doctors prescribe drugs and therapies, not years of life. And with groundbreaking drugs against cancer or hepatitis, billions can be made. But because of the data collection and processing competence of the IT company from California, Roche board chairman Christoph Franz openly admits "a certain competition" to Google.
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