This New Genetics Startup Wants to Make '100' the New '60'

Craig Venter, a biologist and entrepreneur as well as one of the first people to map the human genome, wants to make 100 the new 60. His latest venture, announced yesterday, will concentrate on extending the human lifespan.

Human Longevity has already received $70 million in private backing and aims to use both genomics and stem cell therapies to allow us to live longer, healthier lives.

“Your age is your No. 1 risk factor for almost every disease, but it’s not a disease itself,” Venter told The New York Times. If slowing the aging process is indeed possible, it could present a new defense against disease, potentially preventing a slew of life-threatening conditions all at once, eliminating the need to find individual cures. Despite this possibility, the San Diego, Calif.-based company will also work on treating individual diseases of aging, concentrating on cancer, diabetes and obesity, heart and liver diseases and dementia. It will focus its initial clinical sequencing efforts on cancer, teaming up with the Moores Cancer Center at the University of California, San Diego to sequence the genomes of every patient who is treated there, as well as perform a full genome sequence on their tumors. "The goal is to analyze, utilize and share the data generated with the objective of enhancing diagnostic abilities and improving patient outcomes," the company said in a statement.

To do all this, Human Longevity will build a human sequencing operation capable of processing 40,000 human genomes a year. The DNA data collected will be combined with additional data on health and body compositions of individuals who are both healthy and sick, ranging in age from infants to those who have celebrated their 100th birthday, in order to better understand the molecular causes of aging and age-related illnesses. Despite this possibility, the San Diego, Calif.-based company will also work on treating individual diseases of aging, concentrating on cancer, diabetes and obesity, heart and liver diseases and dementia. It will focus its initial clinical sequencing efforts on cancer, teaming up with the Moores Cancer Center at the University of California, San Diego to sequence the genomes of every patient who is treated there, as well as perform a full genome sequence on their tumors. "The goal is to analyze, utilize and share the data generated with the objective of enhancing diagnostic abilities and improving patient outcomes," the company said in a statement.

To do all this, Human Longevity will build a human sequencing operation capable of processing 40,000 human genomes a year. The DNA data collected will be combined with additional data on health and body compositions of individuals who are both healthy and sick, ranging in age from infants to those who have celebrated their 100th birthday, in order to better understand the molecular causes of aging and age-related illnesses.If You Could, Would You Want to Live Forever? Google Thinks You Might. Google is known for its online search engine. And for its advertising business. But, over the years, the tech giant has expanded into new areas such as driverless cars and "smart" glasses. Now, Google has invested in a company called Calico, which it says will focus on health and well-being -- in particular, the "challenge of aging and associated diseases."

"Illness and aging affect all our families," Google chief executive Larry Page said in a blog post announcing the new venture. "With some longer term, moonshot thinking around healthcare and biotechnology, I believe we can improve millions of lives."

For those who aren't familiar with Google's in-house lingo, a "moonshot" is a project that pushes the envelope in some far-out kind of way. Some moonshots could be genius. Others, well, ridiculous.

Despite Calico being the subject of a Time magazine cover story called "Can Google Solve Death?", details about what the new company will actually do have not been disclosed. What is known for sure is that Calico will be headed by Arthur D. Levinson, chairman and former CEO of Genentech and chairman of Apple. Levinson stepped down from Google's board in 2009.

Page himself suffers from a health condition that he only recently talked about. He has been diagnosed with vocal cord paralysis, a rare nerve condition that affects his ability to speak. Of course, another entrepreneur who famously struggled and succumbed to his health issues was Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, who died in 2011 after a painful battle with pancreatic cancer.

It remains to be seen whether Calico will someday be considered genius or simply ridiculous. (You really think someone can eliminate death? If anyone has a shot, why not Google, right?) In the meantime, the new project has already received an official thumbs up from Apple chief executive Tim Cook.

"For too many of our friends and family, life has been cut short or the quality of their life is too often lacking," he was quoted saying in the announcement. "Art [Levinson] is one of the crazy ones who thinks it doesn't have to be this way."

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