Can Google, the technology giant best known for search and free email, tackle aging?

Can one startup-within-a-corporation* put a stop to corporeal decay and the physical ravages of decades of living? Calico is Google’s best shot at it.

Calico’s aim is to make the aging process less devastating. No one’s claiming that we’ll be able to live forever, but quality of life into one’s later years can surely be better.

We think the world will have to wait until 2015 or later to see actionable information emerge from Calico. Science takes time, after all. But research is beginning in earnest now, and we think Calico will acquire great minds and formidable human resources this coming year.

*Calico is, Googlers have stated, a “new company” that Google considers an “investment.” All Calico communications have come through Google’s official communications team, so we are still considering Calico part of Google proper.

That approach may yield unlikely conclusions. “Are people really focused on the right things? 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,” Page said. “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.”

Levinson, the firm’s leader, has had a storied career. A biochemist with a Ph.D. from Princeton, he rose through the ranks to become CEO of Genentech in 1995. Levinson, who was previously a director at Google, is currently the chairman of both Genentech and Apple‘s boards. He replaced the latter company’s co-founder Steve Jobs after his death in 2011. Levinson was not immediately available for comment.

 Forming an entirely separate company as a way of expanding its ambitions is a new move for Google under Page. Far-out projects such as Google Glass, a pair of Internet-connect spectacles, and its self-driving car initiative are run out of Google X, the company’s secretive research arm headed by co-founder Sergey Brin. But Calico will be a separate entity.

“For me, it was always unsatisfying if you look at companies that get very big, and they’re just doing one thing,” Page said. “Ideally, if you have more people and more resources, you can do more things, get more things solved. We’ve kind of always had that philosophy.”

Calico is in line with Page’s oft-stated belief that the company should be aiming not just to make the world a little better, but a lot better. Page urges Google employees to engage in so-called 10x thinking—aspiring to create inventions which are better than anything that already exists by at least an order of magnitude.

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