Google has teamed up with Apple’s chairman to launch a new company that will attempt to significantly increase the human lifespan.
Calico will use biotechnology to tackle major illnesses and aging, the search giant announced on Tuesday.
The new company will be led by Arthur Levinson, who as well as being chairman of Apple and biotech firm Genentech, holds a PhD in biochemistry from Princeton and is also a member of the Biotech Hall of Fame.
Announcing the creation of Calico, Google chief executive Larry Page said: “Illness and aging affect all our families... from the decreased mobility and mental agility that comes with age, to life-threatening diseases that exact a terrible physical and emotional toll on individuals and families.
“With some longer term, moonshot thinking around healthcare and biotechnology, I believe we can improve millions of lives.”
The average life expectancy in the UK is 79 for men and 82 for women, according to the World Health Organisation.
Despite saying the venture is in its “early days”, Mr Page hinted that one of the illnesses Calico’s small team, based near Google’s headquarters in San Francisco, will look at is cancer.
According to Macmillan Cancer Support, more than a third of Brits will develop cancer at some point in their lives.
“We think of solving cancer as this huge thing that’ll totally change the world,” Mr Page told TIME magazine. “But when you really take a step back and look at it, yeah, there are many, many tragic cases of cancer, and it’s very, very sad, but in the aggregate, it’s not as big an advance as you might think.”
Calico is the latest example of Google moving away from its traditional internet business. It has branched out into mobile phones and hi-tech glasses and is also developing a self-driving car.
Mr 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.”
Tim Cook, chief executive of Apple, 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.”