- January 22, 2021
- Posted by: Bastion team
- Category: Markets
Calico CEO Art Levinson
Jeff Chiu/Associated Press
- Calico, the Google-backed biotech company devoted to solving ageing, is one of Alphabet’s most secretive divisions.
- The company has opened up a handful of new positions in the past few weeks, and some of the roles give us a glimpse into what Calico has in store for 2021.
- The most high profile of the roles is a new head of oncology research. The previous oncology lead left in 2019.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Calico, the Alphabet-backed life sciences company devoted to solving ageing, is one of the company’s most mysterious upstarts.
But the biotech arm is quietly chugging along and, in the past few months, has opened up a handful of new roles across research, computing, and safety.
The company is hunting for a new head of oncology, who would oversee Calico’s therapeutics programs and lead a lab, according to the job description. Cancer isn’t a new area for Calico – it had a previous head of oncology, Jeffrey Settleman, until 2019 – but in October, Endpoints News spotted that Calico had embarked on its first clinical trial with partner AbbVie on a cancer drug.
The foundation of Calico’s efforts, however, is breaking down the biology of aging, per the company. One project, for example, has been studying how yeast ages at the cellular level for years. The company came up with a way of separating cells that allowed it to better study the effects of aging at the molecular level.
Calico is also building out a “new team” focused on understanding “the cellular effects of chemical and genetic perturbations,” a job description said. The team will use things like imaging technology, other words, to see how cells change when altered genetically or chemically.
Calico is also hiring a handful of scientists to study the role of stress signaling, metabolism, and other areas thought to be relevant to aging, as well as a handful of interns, according to the latest round of job openings. Business Insider spotted a total of 14 open jobs across the company’s website and LinkedIn, and five intern positions.
Here are the jobs Calico is looking to fill
- Head of oncology research: You’ll lead a lab and Calico’s therapeutics program for cancer.
- Principal investigator, age-associated inflammation: You’ll lead aging research related to inflammation and the immune system.
- Scientist, cellular and organismal physiology: You’ll study stress signaling pathways in aging with rats.
- Machine learning engineer: You’ll develop the tools to analyze biological imaging data sets.
- Senior project manager, technology: You’ll work with scientists, engineers, and managers to plan upcoming and track ongoing projects.
- Senior Research Associate, Genomics: You’ll lead work on single cell and spatial transcriptomics methods.
- Senior Research Associate, Biochemistry: You’ll bring strong knowledge of cell biology, molecular biology and biochemistry techniques, and work with multiple labs across Calico.
- Scientist, Single Cell Genomics: You’ll act as a technical domain expert for single cell and spatial transcriptomics technology.
- Data curation engineer: You’ll work to help store and provide access to biological datasets.
- Senior lab operations coordinator: This is a contract position that encompasses personnel and lab management.
- Scientist, In Vivo Metabolism: You’ll be part of a team for “identifying targets and pathways suitable for therapeutic intervention.”
- Research Associate/Senior Research Associate, Cell Biology: You’ll be on a team focused on chemical biology, functional genomics and cell biology.
- Principal Research Associate/Senior Research Associate, Molecular and Cellular Biology: You’ll explore “signaling stress pathways in support of translational efforts.”
- Lab Automation Engineer III: You’ll be responsible for “assembling core laboratory automation infrastructure.”
- Intern roles: Biochemisty, computational biology, machine learning & computer vision, microscopy, preclinical imaging and microscopy.
Calico has been secretive since its founding
Bill Maris, the founder of Google Ventures, now GV, pitched the idea of a company devoted to combating aging-associated diseases to Google executives.
Maris and then-Google CEO Larry Page brought in former Genentech CEO and Apple chairman Arthur Levinson to run it, generating buzz out of the gate with a Time cover splash that asked, “Can Google solve death?”
But since its founding in 2013, Calico has kept a low profile, to the point that even many of its peers in the anti-aging research field see it as a mystery. It doesn’t really talk about what it’s doing or collaborate with with many external partners, leaving many experts to wonder if it’s making meaningful progress on its bold mission.
Maris left Alphabet in 2016 to form his own investment fund, Section 32. He told Business Insider last year that he was disappointed with the progress Calico had made since then and criticized its secrecy.
“It’s not how I envisioned it at all,” he said.
Calico has said that it wants to understand the biological process of aging itself, like in the biochemical pathways that respond to nutrients – making one incremental breakthrough at a time if necessary.
But other companies, like the Jeff Bezos-backed Unity Biotechnology, are more focused on making drugs now, based on what we already know about aging. Unity has had no more success than Calico, failing to post meaningful results in a recent clinical trial.
David Botstein, Calico’s chief scientific officer, told MIT Technology Review that a “best case” scenario is that Calico will have a major discovery to show the world in a decade. That was five years ago.
Bastion Balance Seoul, Korea.