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Google vs. Death

Back in 2013, Google launched a biotech venture, Calico, with a lofty goal in mind — to defeat aging.

News outlets were quickly buzzing about the huge potential this little biotech company had.

But since then, progress has been slow-going… Calico struck a multibillion-dollar deal with pharmaceutical giant AbbVie in 2014, which was later renewed in 2018.

Together the pair just started the first clinical trials for a cancer drug in October 2020.

But after a little over seven years, it seems like this “breakthrough” company doesn’t have much to show for it.

Digging a little deeper, however, tells a more exciting story.

Let’s start first with some news from December…

Cognitive Improvement… in Just Days

In a new study published Dec. 1, 2020, researchers administered a drug called ISRIB to aged mice. ISRIB works by rebooting cells’ protein production machinery.

Within days, they observed rapid restoration of youthful cognitive abilities.

Data from the trial suggested that:

“The aged brain has not permanently lost essential cognitive capacities, as was commonly assumed, but rather that these cognitive resources are still there but have been somehow blocked, trapped by a vicious cycle of cellular stress. [The] work with ISRIB demonstrates a way to break that cycle and restore cognitive abilities that had become walled off over time.”¹

And the license to this age-defying drug is held by none other than Calico.

Of course, these studies are being done on mice, so it’s too early to tell if this holds any promise for human aging.

But scientists are already speculating what this could mean for the field…

Uses in Fighting Alzehimer’s

In further experiments with ISRIB researchers tested the drug on mice with fully developed Alzheimer’s-like symptoms, mimicking the disease at its more advanced stages.

They found that ISRIB could, in fact, work to restore cognitive processes impaired by Alzheimer’s disease.²

Alzheimer’s is a complicated disease, which means fighting it is a difficult task for any biotech to take on.

Which is also probably why Calico tends to keep the news of ISRIB’s successes on the down-low.

But even if on the surface it seems like this company hasn’t made any progress in the aging field, it’s what’s going on behind closed doors that interests us more.

And with Google at its helm, there will be no shortage of funds to further this research in 2021 and beyond.


Brittan Gibbons-O’Neill

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Brittan Gibbons-o'neill