Alphabet loses top AI researcher at anti-aging unit Calico
(Bloomberg) -- Daphne Koller, a leading artificial intelligence scientist, has left her role at Alphabet Inc.’s Calico after less than two years at the medical research lab focused on aging.
Google formed Calico in 2013 with the edict to find ways to extend human life, arguably the search giant’s most audacious endeavor outside of the internet. In August 2016, Calico recruited Koller as its first chief computing officer. She was hired to lead what Calico calls its "computational biology" efforts -- applying machine learning data-analysis tools to medical information.
“I have decided to leave Calico to pursue other professional opportunities,” Koller said in an emailed statement. “I very much enjoyed my time at Calico, and have the greatest respect for the Calico team and their important and aspirational mission.”
Calico, run by longtime Genentech executive Art Levinson, has said little about its work. Koller, however, was an outlier, speaking at public events and shedding some light on the inner workings of the mysterious lab.
At a conference in December, Koller mentioned Calico’s study tracking mice to spot indicators of aging. She also noted a new effort to use computer vision technology to track cells in yeast. "The opportunities in this field are endless," she said. A veteran Stanford University computer science professor, Koller co-founded the online education company Coursera Inc. in 2012.
"Daphne has been instrumental in helping to build our machine learning and computing infrastructure and has made many important contributions as we aim to bring the vast capabilities of machine learning to bear on advancing our understanding of the biological mechanisms by which we age," Calico spokesman Neil Cohen said.
Calico teamed up with pharmaceutical firm AbbVie Inc. in 2014 to work on new drugs for age-related disease like cancer. As of December, AbbVie has put in $750 million for the effort. Alphabet invested $250 million and is set to add another $500 million, according to a recent filing.
In November, Hal Barron, a veteran drug company executive and another prominent Calico hire, left to join GlaxoSmithKline Plc.