Google to tackle aging, illness with new company

Google branches out into healthcare, medical research with new company call Calico

Google is reaching out beyond search, Android, Maps and even computerized glasses. The Internet company is putting its considerable muscle behind healthcare with a particular focus on aging and the diseases that accompany it.

"OK ... so you're probably thinking wow!" wrote Larry Page, co-founder and CEO of Google, in a Google+ post. "That's a lot different from what Google does today. But as we explained in our first letter to shareholders, there's tremendous potential for technology more generally to improve people's lives. So don't be surprised if we invest in projects that seem strange or speculative compared with our existing Internet businesses."

On Wednesday, Google announced a new company, dubbed Calico, that will focus on the somewhat amorphous subjects of health and well-being, though with a particular focus on aging and its related diseases.

Arthur D. Levinson, the chairman and CEO of Genentech and the current chairman of Apple, will be the CEO and a founding investor for Calico.

"For too many of our friends and family, life has been cut short or the quality of their life is too often lacking," said Apple CEO Tim Cook, in a statement . "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 his Google+ post, Page said he's excited to tackle the issue of aging and its related illnesses.

"These issues affect us all -- 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," he wrote. "And while this is clearly a longer-term bet, we believe we can make good progress within reasonable timescales with the right goals and the right people."

Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research, told Computerworld that he doesn't find healthcare or medical research to be too far out of Google's realm. The company just might have the money and muscle to make serious research inroads.

"Google is great at analyzing large amounts of data and so much of medical research, in many ways, is data analytics," Kerravala said. "They have the resources and they have the analytical capabilities. One of the things that always holds back medical research is resources and funding, of which, Google has plenty."

Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research, said it makes sense for Google to dive into medical research. Google is all about gathering, analyzing and distributing information. Health care also is information based.

"Google seems to be able to maintain its main business, while dabbling elsewhere. It's called delegation," said Gottheil. "Google thinks if it can be done with intelligence, engineering and computer hardware, they can do it."

This article, Google to tackle aging, illness with new company, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed. Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

See more by Sharon Gaudin on Computerworld.com.

Read more about healthcare it in Computerworld's Healthcare IT Topic Center.

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