Just days after Google’s announcement that it was creating a holding company called Alphabet to corral all of its long-shot, paradigm-shifting projects, a senior executive at the search giant has announced another grand plan to save the world.
Linus Upson, who last October left his role as top Googler for the Chrome browser, has told co-workers that his next project for Alphabet will be to create a genetically engineered mosquito in an effort to try and rid the world of scourges like malaria and dengue fever, according to The Information’s Amir Efrati.
Eradicating something like dengue fever would be one killer anti-virus program, although other innovators, like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, have already started work on similar campaigns. If Upson can sell his idea to his superiors, Alphabet would be leaping head-long into a truly awesome space race toward ridding the world of some of its most deadly disease. Details of the planned project have yet to be revealed, writes Efrati:
Mr. Upson told colleagues he wanted to start the venture within Google, given that he needed capital and other resources without the burden of generating a quick return. The exact status of Mr. Upson’s project is unclear, including whether he’s begun hiring epidemiologists or entomologists to work with him, though the people said it was largely in the planning phase.
Other blogs, including one from Re/code, report that Harvard University geneticist and molecular engineer George Church says he has spoken about the genetic-engineering project with both Upson and his boss, Google co-founder and now Alphabet CEO Larry Page.
The Harvard Gazette recently reported on a significant gathering of global experts focused on disease-fighting efforts around the world, seeking to draw lessons from past efforts as they began “a weeklong leadership program focused on eradicating another age-old scourge: malaria.
Though the program’s 56 participants have been involved in different aspects of the fight against malaria for years, Dyann Wirth, the Richard Pearson Strong Professor of Infectious Disease, chair of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, and director of the Harvard Malaria Initiative, said that shifting officials’ focus from control and treatment of the disease to eradication requires shifting strategies as well.
“We want to give them the overview of the problem of malaria, all the way from the genes to the globe,” Wirth said. “Many of them work [on malaria]… and although most in the room probably have had this material at one point, they haven’t thought about it in this lens of elimination/eradication, which is quite different from treating symptomatic cases or preventing symptomatic cases.”
Here’s a video of a talk last year by reknowned malaria expert at Harvard, Dr. Regina Rabinovich:
Photo credit: Patrick Tehan/Bay Area News Group