Google’s stealthy anti-aging startup

Sep 19, 2013

FORTUNE -- Yesterday’s big tech story (beyond Apple’s iOS7 release) was actually a biotech story, but only because Google (goog) was involved. The search giant announced that it has launched Calico, a “new company that will focus on health and well-being, in particular the challenge of aging and associated diseases.”

Or, as Time magazine put it: Google vs. Death.

Calico's CEO is ex-Genentech CEO Art Levinson, who will remain chairman of Genentech (plus a director of parent company Hoffmann-La Roche) and chairman of Apple (aapl) . You may recall that Levinson also used to be on the Google board, before being leaving due to perceived conflicts of interest with his Apple role.

Beyond the above information, neither Google nor Levinsohn is actually saying anything about Calico. And there aren’t even additional details in the Time story. So here are a few tiny nuggets to begin moving things along:

1. This is an independent company, not a subsidiary or affiliate of Google.

2. Google corporate is making the initial investment, not Google Ventures (even though Google Ventures partner Bill Maris was instrumental in the original brainstorming). There are not yet any SEC filings, but expect that the initial investment is in the tens of millions of dollars.

3. Venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins is not an investor in Calico, despite being the first money into both Google and Genentech.

4. I’ve also reached out to several other top life sciences VCs, none of whom had heard about Calico before yesterday’s announcement. Same goes for some healthcare industry headhunters. In other words, this has legitimately taken folks by surprise.

5. I also contacted a handful of pharma folks, each of whom offered what they admitted to be uninformed speculation. Here was the response I found most interesting (again – smart pharma guy who doesn’t know Calico):

“I'd say that Art's background in biotech and gene-driven cancer therapies would mean he'd be likely focusing on identifying the molecular aspects/drivers/signals of cellular aging and looking at interventional therapies targeting those targets. If true, this would be similar to how the oncology field was in the 1980s (wide open, no strategy, no leader, shunned by "real" scientists and most investors).”

6. "Calico" is apparently shorthand for California Life Company, but so far there are no publicly-available incorporation documents in either California or Delaware.

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