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June 26, 2018

AbbVie, Alphabet-Backed Calico Extend Aging Collaboration by $1B, Three Years

  • AbbVie and Alphabet-backed Calico said today they will contribute an additional $1 billion to—and extend by three years—their nearly four-year-old collaboration to develop and commercialize new treatments for aging and age-related diseases, including neurodegeneration and cancer.

    AbbVie and Alphabet, Google’s parent company, said they agreed to chip in $500 million toward the extended collaboration, with Calico continuing to pursue discovery-stage research and development, and AbbVie continuing to provide scientific and clinical development support. AbbVie will lend its commercial expertise to lead future development and commercialization activities, the companies said.

    “We've built a successful collaboration—both scientifically and culturally—that is advancing cutting-edge science,” Michael Severino, M.D., AbbVie EVP, R&D, and CSO said in a statement. “Calico has attracted an outstanding team of world-class scientists, and the extension of this collaboration allows us to further build on the research we've done to identify transformative treatment options for patients with age-related diseases.”

    AbbVie and Calico launched their collaboration, valued at up-to-$1.5 billion, in 2014. Since then, the companies said, they have launched more than two dozen early-stage programs addressing diseases across oncology and neuroscience, yielding what they termed new insights into the biology of aging.

    The companies haven’t disclosed many details of those programs. However, Calico’s website lists some two dozen studies in which its researchers have focused on cancer and/or aging. Most recent of those was “A Window into Extreme Longevity; The Circulating Metabolomic Signature of the Naked Mole-Rat, a Mammal That Shows Negligible Senescence,” an aging-related study published online April 20 in the journal GeroScience. The study compared metabolites of the naked mole-rat (Heterocephalus glaber) and laboratory mice to find “striking inter-species differences in amino acid, peptide, and lipid metabolites.”

  • Potential Metabolic Signature

    The investigators also reported that their analysis “surprisingly” revealed low circulating levels of specific amino acids, particularly those linked to the methionine pathway, that resemble those observed in hibernating ground squirrels and methionine-restricted rats: “We speculate that low circulating levels of amino acids may be a metabolic signature in organisms that exhibit prolonged longevity.”

    Under their extended collaboration, Calico agreed to oversee research and early development until 2022, and advance collaboration projects through Phase IIa through 2027. AbbVie agreed to continue to support Calico in early R&D and, following completion of Phase IIa studies, will have the option to manage late-stage development and commercial activities.

    The companies agreed to share costs and profits equally.

    “Our collaboration with AbbVie has fully met our high expectations,” added Arthur D. Levinson, Ph.D., Calico’s founder and CEO, and the former Genentech chairman and CEO.  “Our initial agreement created a unique partnership and this extension will accelerate further our efforts to understand the science of aging to advance novel therapies for patients.”

    Calico—an acronym for its formal name of California Life Sciences LLC—was founded in 2013 by Google, which launched the company to carry out R&D into the biology that controls lifespan, then apply that know-how by developing advanced technologies toward “interventions that enable people to lead longer and healthier lives.”

    Since then, Calico has grown to more than 150 employees and a headquarters/R&D site in South San Francisco. Calico’s website lists 26 job openings for various positions, including a Head of Translational Development who “will be responsible for advancing Calico’s science from research to early clinical development.”

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