Google to help develop drugs for diseases that afflict elderly

It enters intp partnership with pharmaceutical company

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Google Inc., the Silicon Valley powerhouse that's behind technology that powers everything from its eponymous search engine to driverless cars, is teaming up with a Chicago-area pharmaceutical company to develop new treatments for diseases prevalent among the elderly.

AbbVie Inc. and Calico, a startup funded by Google, said Wednesday that they've formed a partnership to spend up to $1.5 billion to research and bring to market novel drugs and treatments for everything from cancer to Alzheimer's disease.

The pact, which calls for the establishment of a new research and development center in the San Francisco Bay area, is an outgrowth of the research and development company Google launched a year ago, whose mission is to leverage advanced technology to increase understanding of the biology that controls life span.

It plans to begin hiring immediately for several research-based positions.

Its collaboration with AbbVie, a global pharmaceutical company that specializes in bringing drugs from late-stage development to market, brings with it instant credibility and institutional expertise. AbbVie, whose multi-use drug Humira is the biggest-selling drug in the world, also has treatments for cancer, thyroid disease and heart disease.

Calico, which stands for California Life Company, is headed by Arthur Levinson, the former longtime chief executive of the life sciences company Genentech and the chairman of Apple.

Levinson, who is also a Calico investor, stepped down from Genentech when it was acquired by Roche in 2009. He told media outlets last year that he had been considering a partnership with Swiss-based Roche, a global health care company that competes in some of the same spaces as AbbVie.

"Our relationship with AbbVie is a pivotal event for Calico, whose mission is to develop life-enhancing therapies for people with age-related diseases," Levinson said in a statement. "It will greatly accelerate our efforts to understand the science of aging, advance our clinical work, and help bring important new therapies to patients everywhere."

Under terms of the agreement, AbbVie and Calico will each provide $250 million to launch the venture. Calico will handle early research and development efforts to usher treatments through mid-phase clinical trials. From there, AbbVie will have the option to manage late-stage development and to bring the product to market.

The companies will share in costs and profits equally.

AbbVie CEO Richard Gonzalez said the collaboration "demonstrates our commitment to exploring new areas of medicine and innovative approaches to drug discovery and development that augments our already robust pipeline. The potential to help improve patients' lives with new therapies is enormous."