Google’s Project Calico is one of those Google Ventures that leaves me scratching my head. Furiously. Both literally and figuratively. I sometimes get the impression that my favorite tech company (yes, Google is my favorite) is aiming to play God. One of the works of Project Calico involves reversing the ageing process. And if possible stopping it altogether.
Google started Project Calico in 2013 as an independent research and biotechnology development company. But when Alphabet was formed, Project Calico was absorbed as part of the parent company. The biggest news since the research facility was established was announced last year when Google announced it was going into a $1.5 billion partnership with Abbvie, a biopharmoceutical company based in Chicago, Illinois. The aim of the partnership was to establish a research and development facility to focus on ageing and all diseases that are related to the ageing process in human beings.
Again last year (as a matter of fact in September, the same month the partnership with Abbvie was signed), another partnership with the University of Texas South Western Medical Centre and 2M Companies was signed to pursue research in a related and somehow similar field of science: to carry out the research and development of drugs related to neurodegenarative disorders, which is another way of categorizing diseases affecting mostly the elderly.
Taking these developments together, one should understand why some people might think Google is trying to change the natural order of things. Trying to play God. Just recently, they even revamped their online ‘medical encyclopedia’ to make it easier for sick people (hypochondriacs mostly) to get information about their health concerns. The aim is to stop people from panicking over some symptoms they might find strange.
I see a situation in the not too distant future where a kind of Google website is created to deal solely with health issues and then integrating it with project Calico. I don’t think it is far-fetched. With their resources, they can afford to embark on any insane-sounding project.
Back to Project Calico and their pursuit of how to reverse the ageing process. Just this year, Project Calico formally signed an agreement with the famous Broad Institute of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard to advance research on age related issues. Project Calico is really on a roll with these partnerships. Two more partnerships were announced this year, the first with the Buck Institute for research, based in Novato, California. The Buck Institute has being in the ageing research business since 1999. So this is a marriage between experience and money. The second partnership is with QB3, established as a non-profit research and technology Institute 15 years ago and based in California. Again Google is using its money through Project Calico to finance QB3, to do research on how ageing occurs, how the lifespan of each individual is determined by DNA and finding cures for age related diseases.
And don’t for one minute assume that Google’s Project Calico is done with going into partnerships with highly specialized small research facilities. Like I said earlier they are on a roll, and apparently it is not going to stop until they find the solution to diseases ravaging the elderly. This is a good thing anyway you look at it. Helping the elderly through those difficult problems should not be sniffed at.
The fear for people like me is that project Calico would create a monster in its attempt to do something about the ageing process in man. We take ageing for granted because whether we like it or not, it is one way nature uses to keep human population at a manageable level. The unintended results of Project Calico must never include creating something that is beyond our understanding.