A secretive genetic research company backed by Google has gained access to the data from the biggest family tree website in the world in the quest to extend human life. Medical research company Calico has struck the deal with Ancestry.com in order to look at genetic patterns in people that live long lives. They hope to use the research to make drugs that will be able to extend life.
Ancestry.com provides a service to analyze your DNA to provide you with insights as to where your ancestors came from. Their subsidiary AncestryDNA has collected a mass amount of genetic data on over one million customers so far, which Calico will have the chance to study.
They hope that they will be able to identify the genetic role played in families that experience unusual longevity in order to eventually make drugs that could increase human lifespans. In addition to genetic data, Ancestry.com also holds extensive and detailed genealogical data. It claims to have more than 7 million historical family trees – a tremendous resource for tracking longevity trends in families across generations.
“We have been looking at, and frankly responding to, inquiries from a number of parties about ways that we can collaborate to take the data that we’ve aggregated historically, and that we’re starting to aggregate now, and get some real scale,” Tim Sullivan, Ancestry.com’s CEO told Re/code.
Neither Google nor Ancestry.com have revealed the financial terms of the secretive deal, but it’s thought to be substantial – Google has reportedly poured up to $730 million into Calico so far. Ancestry.com is about to add medical records to its historical and genetic data by launching AncestryHealth, a service that allows its customers to log their personal health. This will make the data for Calico to examine in its search for the genetics behind longevity even richer. Ken Chahine, Executive Vice President and Head of DNA and Health at AncestryDNA, said: “On the heels of our AncestryHealth launch and our one million genotyped customers milestone for AncestryDNA, we’re excited to announce this collaboration with Calico to research and develop life changing solutions. We have laid the groundwork for this effort through the combination of an unmatched family history database, one of the fastest growing genetic databases, and a strong and talented team of computer scientists and professional genealogists.”
Calico has said that AncestryDNA has a unique combination of resources to help them identify common patterns in longevity and human heredity that they hope will lead to therapeutic solutions. “Our common experience suggests that there may be hereditary factors underlying longevity, but finding the genes responsible using standard techniques has proven elusive,” said David Botstein, Calico’s Chief Scientific Officer and member of the US National Academy of Sciences. “This is an extraordinary opportunity to address a fundamental unanswered question in longevity research using high quality human pedigrees.”