Google Inc. (GOOG), operator of the world’s most-popular search engine, is investing in a new company focused on health and well-being.
The business, called Calico, will address the challenge of aging and related diseases, Google said in a blog posting. The venture will be led by Arthur Levinson, chairman of Roche Holding AG (ROG)’s Genentech unit and a former Google director.
The focus on health, which Google Chief Executive Officer Larry Page acknowledged was a “lot different from what Google does today,” comes as the co-founder himself battles with personal ailments. Earlier this year, he disclosed he was diagnosed with left vocal-cord paralysis, a condition that restricts vocal-cord movement, and is also experiencing impairment on the right side.
“Illness and aging affect all our families,” Page said in the posting. “With some longer term, moonshot thinking around health care and biotechnology, I believe we can improve millions of lives.”
Google is stepping up investments in areas outside its core online-advertising and consumer-services business. The search provider has already put money into health-related companies through its venture arm, called Google Ventures, among other sectors. The Mountain View, California-based company has also worked on longer-term bets through a research unit that’s unveiled plans for computerized eyeglasses and driverless cars.
Levinson, who is also a founding investor in Calico, will remain a director of Hoffmann-La Roche Inc. as well as chairman of Apple Inc. (AAPL) Google’s announcement didn’t include any details on the size of the new health-care company or the scope of the investment.
The new venture comes after Levinson stepped down from Google’s board in 2009, a move that resolved a regulatory probe into overlapping directors at Google and Apple. Both companies have continued to compete in more areas, including on mobile devices and in software.
Tim Cook, who took over as Apple’s CEO after Steve Jobs died in 2011 at the age of 56 from complications of pancreatic cancer, praised Levinson in the Google statement.
“For too many of our friends and family, life has been cut short or the quality of their life is too often lacking,” Cook said. “Art is one of the crazy ones who thinks it doesn’t have to be this way. There is no one better suited to lead this mission and I am excited to see the results.”
Page’s health condition can result in hoarse speech and labored breathing, though according to doctors won’t impede him from running the company.
Google rose 1.9 percent to $903.32 at 4 p.m. New York time today. The shares have gained 28 percent this year.
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