The new company is known as Calico, and will focus on health issues with an extreme long-term view. I mean the type of long-term research into issues like aging and chronic illness that traditional drug researchers just can't do. They're under the thumb of shareholders looking for short-term profits, and can't afford to take huge swings at projects with an uncertain outcome.
But Calico can and will take these long-view risks with Google's blessing and fundamental backing. It's not about making money, but about making the world a better place.
I'm excited to see Tim Cook openly supporting this Google project, especially since Calico CEO Arthur Levinson had to give up his Google board seat amid the Android-iPhone wars. The cold war between these tech giants may finally be thawing a little. And it's great to see biotech giant Roche's leadership supporting the kind of research that its own investors would never let it spend millions on. The company will have the pedigree to get something done. Levinson comes with decades of industry experience, having served as CEO of Genentech for 14 years. He's still the chairman of Genentech and Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), and holds a board seat at larger Swiss company Roche, which owns Genentech these days. Franz Humer, Roche's CEO, seems excited about working with Levinson's new company. Apple CEO Tim Cook praised Levinson as "one of the crazy ones" who wants to stretch our lifespans and improve quality of life in the twilight years.
As a Google investor and a human being, this announcement tickled me pink. I'm obviously interested in living longer and more comfortably, but that humanitarian angle isn't the main attraction here.
This project underscores Google's commitment to making the world a better place in general. "Do no evil" is real, even after all these years. The company's official mission is to "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." Do it right and the money will follow.
Close Encounters protagonist Roy Neary says it best: "This means something. This is important."
If Google ever loses this vision, I'll have to take a long, hard look at my shares. Big G is nothing without the trust of its users, and the evil-free philosophy is the best safeguard against losing that crucial asset.
Calico may never make money. It might not even make a difference in the battles against aging, cancer, or cell death. It's called a "moonshot" for good reason; most ultra-visionary launches never make it to the moon.
But I don't care. I wish Levinson all the best in landing this moonshot somewhere useful, but Google can afford even a total disaster here. Calico's very existence proves that Google is still on the right track -- and so is my investment thesis.
Fool contributor Anders Bylund owns shares of Google, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned. Check out Anders' bio and holdings or follow him on Twitter and Google+. The Motley Fool recommends Apple and Google. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Google. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.