Immortality, or being alive forever, is a term that has been in use for long. Tales of a lot of brave immortals are a part of many religions and beliefs of the world. Examples of Immortality can be seen in many ancient legends, religious scriptures, and myths. In Hindu mythology, there are several individuals like God Hanuman, who are immortals.
Even after so many advancements in the field of modern medicine, there has not been a cure for the disease that catches every single human without fail, death. A majority of the population still lives with the fear and anxiety of death. Knowing that one day, one will have to leave everything behind and become non-existent is a depressing thing. The prospect of living forever, or immortality, is that one thing that everyone wants.
What is Google Calico lab
Google as all of you know, has always been a tech company that centered upon innovation. Unlike most companies, a majority of their products are free and have become super useful, making our lives much easier. Google mail and Android would be two good examples.
With the billions of dollars that Google makes as revenue, they have been running several projects in other fields as well. Under their Google X lab, several top secret projects have been going on, and a lot of money are being spent on these projects. Things such as Android Wear, self-driving car, advanced drones are some of the projects going on at the X lab.
Google, under its parent company Alphabet Inc, has also been investing in several projects run by third parties. Calico is one such company.
Calico or the California Life Company is an independent company that focusses primarily on research and development to create medicines and biotech to tackle diseases related to aging. This is probably the first time Google has invested on something that is not a mainstream technology product. On September 18, 2013, Calico came into existence. The company was co-founded by Google and an American businessman Arthur D. Levinson.
When Google restructured all of their companies under the name of a parent company, Alphabet Inc, Calico also became a subsidiary. Google also has another startup in the medical field, Google Verily. Verily is a company that focuses on biotech. They develop devices or technology to collect medical data, sense things and help patients.
Arthur D. Levinson then became the CEO of the new company. Arthur has the experience since he was the CEO of Genentech, a biotech giant and he was also a director of Google for 5 long years. Arthur was and continues to be a chairman of the Apple Inc’s board of directors.
According to Larry Page, co-founder of Google and CEO of Alphabet Inc, Calico is a company focused on “health, well-being, and longevity.” Longevity, that’s what the company is mainly focussed on. The idea of a life that never ends is the core thing that the company is researching upon. In order to achieve this, they are starting by finding cures for the aging and age-related diseases.
In the current world, the main diseases that cause death and that has no cure yet are neurodegeneration and cancer. Neurodegeneration refers to the loss of working or structure of the neurons in one’s body. It is a slow disease and ends with the death of the neurons and thus the human. Diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and Huntington’s are caused by this. As of now, neurodegeneration is incurable.
So is cancer. Cancer refers to the formation of abnormal cell groups in different parts of one’s body. Cancers are tumors that spread to other parts of the body. There are 100 different variety of cancers and millions of people die every year due to cancer. It is thus an immensely researched field and yet we are unable to find a good cure for this. Hopefully, Google Calico Lab project will be able to help the world.
The Google Calico lab opened up a Research and Development facility along with AbbVie Inc, a modern age pharmaceutical giant, just to find cures for these two diseases. The plan was announced in September 2014 and would involve both companies investing $350 million each as a starter with a provision to add an extra $500 million as the project grows.
They have already announced more than six partnerships for research, which includes two universities, a Non-Profit Organization, and two pharmaceutical companies.
On March 2015, Calico partnered with the UC San Francisco (UCSF), a health sciences university college to use the technology developed by one of the professors of UCSF, Peter Walter, who is a professor of biochemistry and biophysics.
On the same month, Google Calico also went into collaboration with The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, two of the top-notch institutes of USA. The collaboration will be primarily aimed at studying the genetics of aging.
Google Calico Project
On 2016, they announced that they would be studying mice, worms, and naked mole rats of Africa in order to solve aging. The naked mole rats live up to 32 years whereas the common rats live for just 2 years. They have naturally evolved not to feel pain. Their body naturally works against cancer and tumors do not form on their body. The abilities of the African mole rat have always been a medical wonder. If the researchers could determine how the rats are able to do this, this could lead to the discovery of a successful cure to aging. With the help of technology, their genome could be used to prevent cancer, one of the two disclosed diseases that Calico is set to eradicate.
Recently on March 24, 2017, Google Calico announced a five-year research collaboration with a biotech company called C4 Therapeutics. C4 said in its press release that the primary aim is “Treating diseases of aging, including cancer”. C4 did not go into the details of the deal or the targets of it. C4 has been working on targeted protein degradation. This means the use of advanced protein degrading molecules to effectively remove proteins that cause diseases. Without all the medical gibberish, this essentially means finding a cure for cancer. The project was still in its preclinical stage when Calico stepped in.
Conclusion: What happens if Calico help us to be immortal?
Even though the technology needed for humans to be immortal is still decades or centuries away, it will surely happen one day, maybe just not in our lifetime. But what if scientists actually cure death? What will happen then?
A never ending life has its own demerits. Lack of space on earth and resources will be the biggest of them all. But since this is all supposed to happen in a distant future, maybe we would have solved that problem by then. Moreover, boredom will affect everyone, bored of living, bored of doing the same things again and again.
Ultimately, depression will take over, a decent number of people may even wish to end their life, tired of living. It’s all hypothetical, nobody knows what the condition of humankind will be when this era arrives.
But one thing is sure, this century will bring a lot of changes to the mankind. We may not even live through this century, just saying.
Also published on Medium.