[Updated: 5:55 pm PT] Google’s new high-profile anti-aging startup, Calico, stirred up plenty of intrigue this fall when it made the cover of Time magazine. Now it has recruited a few superstars of biomedical R&D to work full-time on the startup, including Hal Barron, the chief medical officer and head of global product development at Roche/Genentech, as well as Princeton geneticist David Botstein.
Calico CEO Arthur Levinson, one of the most respected names in the biotechnology industry, made the announcement today in a posting from his Google Plus account.
Here’s what he said.
“Today, I am pleased to announce that four of the brightest and most accomplished individuals in the fields of medicine, drug development, molecular biology and genetics have joined Calico.
• Hal V. Barron, M.D.
• David Botstein, Ph.D.
• Robert Cohen, M.D.
• Cynthia Kenyon, Ph.D.”
Barron will be the president of R&D at Calico, and Botstein will be the chief scientific officer. Both roles are full-time commitments. Genentech spokesman Geoff Teeter confirmed that Barron is making the move, and offered the following comment via e-mail.
Hal will combine this new role with a part-time commitment at Roche. He will remain a member of the Roche Late Stage Portfolio Committee, where he will continue to actively contribute to the decision-making for the late stage pipeline. Hal will also become a member of the Genentech Board of Directors and act as an advisor to Daniel O’Day, Chief Operating Officer Pharma. Hal will continue in his current role as Head of PD [product development] through end of this year and will take on some work with Calico immediately.
We thank Hal for his numerous and significant contributions to the success of Genentech and Roche to date and look forward to his continued significant involvement in the company. A new Head of Global Product Development and Chief Medical Officer will be announced in due course.
Botstein, the famous geneticist at Princeton University in New Jersey, confirmed via email that he plans to move to the San Francisco Bay Area. Botstein is currently on a leave of absence from Princeton.
When I asked Botstein via email to clarify that his role is full-time and involves a move to the Bay Area, he said: “This is essentially correct. It’s a little more complicated as I still will [be] on leave from Princeton for some time so my lab folks there can finish up. I’ll be in my office Thursday. Right now I’m on the road.”
Cohen, a senior oncology fellow at Genentech, is joining as a “Calico Fellow” which is another full-time job that involves work on both R&D and business development. Kenyon, a leading scientist at UCSF on aging and life extension, is joining Calico as a “senior scientific advisor.” That is a part-time position, and Kenyon said in a brief interview she will remain a full-time faculty member at UCSF.
“It’s still early, but it’s exciting,” Kenyon says. “We don’t have everything worked out. But basically, the field of aging research is amazing. There are so many cool results in the literature in terms of how you can perturb this or that signaling pathway, and how to keep an animal ‘young’ longer or extend its lifespan. It’s a very, very exciting time for a company like Calico to come along. I think Calico can really do exciting things.”
The high-profile quartet of hires will begin work on Calico in the coming weeks.
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