Google’s Calico Could Pose a Conflict for Apple Chairman Arthur Levinson

Levinson will become CEO of Google-backed Calico while also serving as chairman of Apple's board of directors

  • Share
  • Read Later
Mike Segar / REUTERS

Silicon Valley titans Apple and Google have always had a complicated relationship. Once close allies, the two companies have adopted an increasingly hostile posture toward each other as the battle for mobile device supremacy has escalated. But as recently as 2009, Apple and Google actually shared two prominent board members, including Google’s then-CEO Eric Schmidt.

From 2006 until 2009, Schmidt, currently Google’s executive chairman, served on Apple’s board of directors, during a period when he was Google CEO and also on its board. From 2004 until 2009, Arthur Levinson, chairman of biotech giant Genentech, served on Google’s board, during a period when he was also an Apple director. It’s common for industry moguls to sit on multiple boards — especially in the sometimes insular world of Silicon Valley — but that arrangement struck federal regulators as questionable.

By May 2009, as Apple and Google began to lock horns in the mobile market, the Federal Trade Commission launched an inquiry into whether the presence of Schmidt and Levinson on the boards of both companies violated antitrust laws. Facing a federal probe, Schmidt resigned from Apple’s board in August of 2009. A few months later, Levinson resigned from Google’s board.

(MORE: Why Apple vs. Google Is the Most Important Battle in Tech)

Levinson, a biochemist with a Ph.D. from Princeton who become CEO of biotech pioneer Genentech in 1995, remained on Apple’s board of directors. Since 2011 he’s been its chairman. Given that history, the news that Levinson will become CEO of a new, Google-backed company called Calico, is bound to raise eyebrows, if not renewed attention from federal regulators in Washington. Levinson will also be a founding investor in the new company.

“There is something about this that feels uncomfortable,” says Lucy P. Marcus, CEO of Marcus Venture Consulting and an expert on corporate governance and board ethics. “If there is no direct overlap between Calico and things that Apple is working on, then technically it’s not a conflict of interest. If there is a conflict of interest, Levinson would have to step out of Apple’s boardroom during those discussions.”

In this week’s issue of TIME, Google CEO Larry Page discusses why Calico could be Google’s most audacious “moonshot” yet. Though Google’s specific plans for Calico are still in development, the new company aims to find ways to treat aging and extend human life. Google’s apparent ambition is to address the most basic facts of life: sickness and death.

“Illness and aging affect all our families,” Google CEO Larry Page wrote in a statement. “With some longer term, moonshot thinking around healthcare and biotechnology, I believe we can improve millions of lives. It’s impossible to imagine anyone better than Art — one of the leading scientists, entrepreneurs and CEOs of our generation — to take this new venture forward.”

Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin have made no secret about their intention to make bold, long-term bets in areas outside — sometimes way outside — the company’s core search, advertising and software businesses. “In some industries,” Page tells TIME in an exclusive interview for the Sept. 30 issue, “it takes ten or 20 years to go from an idea to something being real. Healthcare is certainly one of those areas…maybe if things are going to take ten or 20 years, we should shoot for the things that are really, really important, so ten or 20 years from now we have those things done.”

(MOREExclusive: Google vs. Death)

Page’s partner Brin leads the company’s experimental Google X lab, which is responsible for initiatives like Google Glass and driverless cars. Google is also venturing into renewable energy, and testing a plan to deliver Internet access to remote areas of the globe via hot air balloons. At one point, there was speculation that Google might even develop a “space elevator,” which could cheaply and efficiently deliver vehicles into space.

One of the reasons the FTC launched its 2009 investigation was that both Levinson and Schmidt served on the boards of Apple and Google at a time when the companies were beginning to square off against each other in the mobile space. Given both companies’ current interest in wearable computing, which has obvious health tech applications, Levinson’s move could set the two tech giants on a new collision course. Or, it could presage Levinson’s departure from Apple’s board. A spokesperson for the FTC declined to comment.

“I’ve devoted much of my life to science and technology, with the goal of improving human health,” said Levinson. “Larry’s focus on outsized improvements has inspired me, and I’m tremendously excited about what’s next.”

Apple CEO Tim Cook expressed support for the new project. “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.” Apple did not immediately return a request for further comment.

“If Tim Cook endorses this, does it mean that Apple doesn’t plan to pursue biotech, health tech or life science areas?” asks Marcus. That may come as a surprise to some Apple shareholders, especially given that those fields are poised to become huge technology growth markets over the next several years. “Levinson has been on Apple’s board since 2000,” Marcus observes. “How long does he plan to remain chairman? Is this his exit strategy?” Google’s new venture may lead others to ask similar questions.

9 comments
ValeryChuprin
ValeryChuprin

Art Levinson, unfortunately, like other researchers, ignores the Natural laws in their studies of aging. Result: dozens of fruitless theories of aging, no explanation,  just promises, complete misunderstanding of the nature of aging, and people continue to grow old and die.  

According to these Natural laws man can keep his body young without time limit, and can make his old body young again as he makes a weak body strong. The experience of medicine and athletic development gives reason to believe that 70-80 year old man can make his body 30-40 years old in 1-2 years.                                                                                                      

Impossible? Please read: Valery Chuprin, William Mihajlovic, Three layer functional model and energy exchange concept of aging process.

ValeryChuprin
ValeryChuprin

Dear Dr. Levinson!                       

Our research ("Three Layer functional model and energy exchange concept of aging process" Valery Chuprin & William Mihajlovic) argues that old human organism is able to rejuvenate its aged body and make it young again, as it restores damaging, disease, weak body makes strong. This conclusion is confirmed by the experience of medicine, and athletic development. You should help organism to fight aging. Without help, its live processes weaken and fade over time. People call it aging and death.                                                                                                                   

Calico, or the “California Life Company,” aims to extend life by tackling aging and disease. Allow us to offer for your consideration our conception of aging and rejuvenation and little practical experience, which confirms the correctness of this study. We are sure this is the way to eternal youth. 

ValeryChuprin
ValeryChuprin

Aging is not a disease. A disease is an abnormal condition that affects the body of an organism.(Wikipedia). Aging is a normal condition. Aging is a natural attenuation over time energetic processes that create living matter. This is in accordance with the laws of thermodynamics. There is no perpetual motion in the surrounding nature. Aging is not necessarily, it can be avoided, and the aged body can be rejuvenated. 

ValeryChuprin
ValeryChuprin

The name "Biology of Aging" is incorrect. This statement makes a wrong direction, which has no solution. The correct name is "Physiology of Destruction." We can see that the shell of the human body, its skin, is destroying over time. This is a natural process. As a result, the skin breath weakened, metabolism too. Anoxia internal organs comes. They start to hurt. Skin continues to deteriorate. Nobody stops this process. When destroyed kidney, heart or other organ, all alarmed. But when most large and important organ of the body is destroying - nobody gives it meaning. That's why death occurs. Still wondering - why? Funny and sad.

ValeryChuprin
ValeryChuprin

Calico never reveal the mechanisms of aging. This is not a task for biology. This is why dozens of theories cannot explain the mechanisms of aging, decades pass, spent millions of dollars, and people continue to age and die from it. Biological knowledge is not enough to explain this natural phenomenon - the destruction of our body. But aging is easily explained by natural laws. They say our body destruction can be prevented, and the dilapidated old body can be can be rejuvenated. Young structures and functions can be restored – young skin,youthful appearance, internal organs. Human organism has enough power to heal the body, make it stronger and younger. But organism needs help. Same as a weak body you can make strong, so you can make old body young. And keep it young and live young without a time limit! There are no mechanisms of aging, aging genes in humans - the human genome is decoded. Medicine, biology, athletic development, experiences of people from ancient times confirm this conclusion. We grow old because of ignorance. Concept was presented at the 20 International Congress of Gerontology and Geriatrics, held in Seoul, Korea , 2013, published in AGE magazine.          

You can start to rejuvenate old people today. There are techniques tested medicine and human experience             

Valery Chuprin,MS, 62 & William Mihajlovic,Ph.D, 63

ValeryChuprin
ValeryChuprin

Skin breathing, its reduction, is the main cause of our aging, senile diseases and death. We know skin lesions over 50% often results in the death of the organism.                                                                                                                                                     What happens if skin respiration stops? Organism dies soon. Breathing lungs cannot save it. Recall the story of the ancient circus boy who dies while performing. His body was covered with gold paint. Soon organism suffocated and boy died.            What occurs to an organism when skin respiration weakens over time, not immediately, over the years? The body also begins to choke, get sick and die. Because there is oxygen deficiency, metabolism deteriorates, internal organs and the whole organism self-poisoning. This is what we call aging and death from it. 

Is it possible to save the body from aging and death? Yes. For this we need to restore the young structure-function fading skin.                           

How to do this? It is just a matter of technique. Skin, muscles, skeleton develop from stem cells and have common properties, can develop and regenerate itself. Different techniques, but they exist since ancient times.

If Art Levinson and Calico will be engaged in the restoration of youth structures and functions of the old skin, they will overcome human aging and death within one year. Otherwise they will lose a lot of years and money and achieve nothing. As dozens of predecessors. Because the researchers themselves do not understand the mechanisms of this natural phenomenon - senile destruction of our body, and they thought up numerous theories of aging. While they debate and come up with next, many people die. They could be saved.

ValeryChuprin
ValeryChuprin

There are two main ways in gerontology. First one, to save the lives of people still living. Second, to create human longevity. The second way I do not know. But the first one is simple: we should to revive the young function and structures the vital organ that to 70-90 years has worn down to a critical state, after which comes the death of the organism. It is our skin, the shell of the body, its lungs, kidneys and external brain, nervous, endocrine, circulatory system, etc. More Ashley Montagu pointed out the importance of this organ. For 70-90 years, it performs much wear and 15-20% of its functions. Hence, the diseases of internal organs, which strongly depend on it, hence the death of the organism.

Is it possible to restore young structures and functions of old skin? It is. Skin as muscles, bones derived from stem cells, and can develop. But nobody does this. Or does wrong. It is matter of technique. Updated, hardened skin, this largest organ, will allow organism stay young and live without time constraints. There are no genes or programs of aging in the body. The human genome is transcribed. Why not check it? This can be done today. It is not expensive, but it will bring huge amount of money.                                                                                                                                        I wish you all good health and to stay young.  Our aging and death is the result of misunderstanding the nature of this phenomenon by gerontologists. This error has already been fixed.

Valery Chuprin, Mr.

Valery Chuprin, William Mihajlovic, Three layer functional model and energy exchange concept of aging process,  AGE Magazine, Springer 2006, 28:111–121  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2464718/pdf/11357_2005_Article_4258.pdf