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November 29, 2013

Google Anti-aging Company Calico

Google as recently embarked on a series of high profile hires for its new venture Calico, a company which wants to extend human life by up to 100 years.

Short for California Life Company, Calico is headed up by Art Levinson, the former CEO of biotech company Genentech and Apple board member, who this week announced the elite recruits on Google+.

Pharmaceutical guru Hal Barron will serve as President of research and development, while David Botsein, the former head of Princeton's Genome Unit will be chief scientific officer.

Genetics expert Cynthia Kenyon and oncology expert Robert Cohen will also join the company.




Four of the brightest and most accomplished individuals in the fields of medicine, drug development, molecular biology and genetics have joined Calico.

• Hal V. Barron, M.D.
• David Botstein, Ph.D.
• Robert Cohen, M.D.
• Cynthia Kenyon, Ph.D.

Hal Barron is one of the most respected clinician-scientists and successful drug developers in the biotechnology industry. Hal will join us as President, Research and Development. Hal was most recently Executive Vice President, Head of Global Product Development and Chief Medical Officer of Hoffmann-La Roche. There he was responsible for all the products in the combined portfolio of Roche and Genentech. Barron joined Genentech in 1996 as a clinical scientist. During the next several years, he held positions of increasing responsibility and leadership within Cardiovascular Research and Specialty Therapeutics. In 2002 Barron was promoted to vice president, Medical Affairs. In 2003 he became the senior vice president of Development and in 2004 he was appointed chief medical officer. In 2003 he became the senior vice president of Development. In 2004 he was appointed chief medical officer and in 2009 he was appointed executive vice president.

Prior to joining Genentech, Barron received his Bachelor of Science in physics from Washington University in St. Louis, his Medical Degree from Yale University and completed his training in medicine and cardiology at the University of California San Francisco. Barron’s academic positions include Associate Adjunct Professor at the University of California, San Francisco. He has been issued several patents for his work in thrombosis and angiogenesis and has published more than 90 papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

David Botstein is one of the world’s leading geneticists, and will join Calico as Chief Scientific Officer. He comes to us from Princeton University, where he was Director of the Lewis-Sigler Institute from 2003-2013, and where he remains the Anthony B. Evnin Professor of Genomics. David was educated at Harvard (A.B.) and the University of Michigan (Ph.D.). He taught at MIT (1967-1987); became Vice President at Genentech (1987-1990), and then Chairman of Genetics at Stanford (1990-2003). He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1981 and the Institute of Medicine in 1993. Among his awards are the Eli Lilly Award (1978), the Genetics Society Medal (1988), the American Society for Human Genetics Allen Award (1989), the Rosenstiel Award, 1992, the Gruber Prize in Genetics (2003), the Albany Medical Center Prize (2010), the Dan David Prize (2012) and the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences (2013).

Botstein contributed to the discovery of transposons in bacteria and an understanding of their physical and genetic properties. He devised genetic methods to study the eukaryotic cytoskeleton in yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), notably general ways of detecting gene interactions. In 1980 he made theoretical contributions to human genetics by suggesting, with collaborators, a way to map human disease genes with DNA polymorphisms called restriction fragment length polymorphisms (RFLPs). This became a cornerstone of the new science of genomics. He later founded the Saccharomyces Genome Database (with J. Michael Cherry) and applied DNA microarray technology (with Patrick O. Brown) to study genome-wide gene expression, notably defining thereby clinically significant subtypes of human tumors. Most recently, he has been devising and using genome-scale methods for studying system-level regulation of gene expression and gene interactions. At Princeton, Botstein established a new introductory science curriculum that combines biology, physics, chemistry, and computer science.

Bob Cohen will be joining as a Calico Fellow, in a role that will span R&D and Business Development. Bob was most recently Senior Oncology Fellow at Genentech. Bob joined Genentech’s Research organization in 1994 from University of California, San Francisco, where he trained in hematology and oncology and served as Assistant Professor in Residence in the Cancer Research Institute. During his first decade at Genentech, Bob participated in leadership roles that contributed to the development of several of the company's ground-breaking cancer drugs. He joined Business Development full-time in 2004 and was appointed Senior Oncology Fellow in 2008. Over the past several years he has focused on the development of antibody-drug conjugates, a means of delivering targeted chemotherapy to tumors. He is an inventor of nine issued U.S. patents.

Bob has a Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry from Amherst College and an M.D. with Distinction in Research from the University of Rochester. He completed his residency in internal medicine at the University of Michigan and is board-certified in internal medicine, hematology and oncology.

Cynthia Kenyon is one of the world’s foremost authorities on the molecular biology and genetics of aging and life extension, and will be joining Calico as Senior Scientific Advisor. In 1993, Cynthia’s pioneering discovery that a single-gene mutation could double the lifespan of healthy, fertile C. elegans roundworms sparked an intensive study of the molecular biology of aging. Her findings showed that, contrary to popular belief, aging does not “just happen” in a completely haphazard way. Instead, aging is a regulated process controlled by specific genes. Using C. elegans, she has now discovered many evolutionarily-conserved life-extending genes and pathways. In particular, her findings have led to the realization that a universal hormone-signaling pathway influences the rate of aging in many species, including humans.

Cynthia graduated valedictorian in chemistry from the University of Georgia in 1976. She received her Ph.D. from MIT in 1981 and was a postdoctoral fellow with Nobel laureate Sydney Brenner in Cambridge, England. Since 1986 she has been at the University of California, San Francisco. Cynthia is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and she a former president of the Genetics Society of America. She has received many scientific awards. Currently, she is an American Cancer Society Professor at UCSF, and she directs UCSF’s Hillblom Center for the Biology of Aging, positions she will continue, while she joins Calico on a part-time basis.


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