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Google’s life-extension firm, Calico, opens $1.5bn drug research centre

The Google-backed company, Calico, which launched with the bold ambition of "curing death," has announced the opening of a new drug research centre.

In partnership with Chicago-based pharmaceutical giant AbbVie, the firm will develop and bring to market new drugs targeting diseases related to old age.

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Each partner has agreed to commit $250 million (£153 million) to the project with the option to each add an additional $500 million (£306 million) in funding at a later date. The money will contribute towards the construction of a new research centre in San Francisco, where Calico will focus on the early development of new drugs. AbbVie will then look at clinical trials and ultimately bring the products to market.

Art Levinson, CEO and founder of Calico, said that his company's relationship with AbbVie would be crucial in developing treatments for age-related illnesses.

"It will greatly accelerate our efforts to understand the science of aging, advance our clinical work, and help bring important therapies to patients everywhere," he said.

Google CEO Larry Page, director of engineering Ray Kurzweil and head of Google Ventures Bill Maris have all expressed an interest in radical life extension and the Singularity, but so far Calico has not really addressed these issues.

In an interview with Time (opens in new tab), Page said, " One of the things I thought was amazing is that if you solve cancer, you'd add about three years to people's average life expectancy. We think of solving cancer as this huge thing that'll totally change the world. 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."

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So while Calico's new research centre is certainly admirable, it is merely one small step towards the futuristic remit it launched with.

Barclay has been writing about technology for a decade, starting out as a freelancer with IT Pro Portal covering everything from London’s start-up scene to comparisons of the best cloud storage services.  After that, he spent some time as the managing editor of an online outlet focusing on cloud computing, furthering his interest in virtualization, Big Data, and the Internet of Things.