Google (GOOG) said Wednesday it is launching a venture to tackle illness and aging that will be headed by Genentech’s former chief executive.

Google CEO Larry Page provided sparse details about the new firm in a statement on Google’s website. However, he did provide the broad brushstrokes of the plan in a separate blog post.

The issues of aging and illness “affect us all -- from the decreased mobility and mental agility that comes with age, to life-threatening diseases that exact a terrible physical and emotional toll on individuals and families,” he wrote on his official blog.

“And while this is clearly a longer-term bet, we believe we can make good progress within reasonable timescales with the right goals and the right people.”

Calico will be led by Art Levinson, Apple’s (AAPL) Chairman and the former CEO of biotech heavyweight Genentech. Page said “ 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.”

Page said he expects Calico to be a relatively small investment for the search giant. However, he hinted at other concepts that appear to be outside Google’s main business area, saying, “don’t be surprised if we invest in projects that seem strange or speculative compared with our existing Internet businesses.”

Calico also got a nod from Apple (AAPL) CEO Tim Cook.

“For too many of our friends and family, life has been cut short or the quality of their life is too often lacking. Art is one of the crazy ones who thinks it doesn’t have to be this way,” Cook was quoted as saying in the statement on Google’s website.

Apple founder Steve Jobs -- seen as visionary in the technology field -- died from complications due to pancreatic cancer at 56. It was during his tenure at Apple that the company launched the “Think Different” advertising campaign that famously compared the struggling tech company to the “crazy ones” -- big thinkers who changed the world.

Follow Adam Samson on Twitter @adamsamson.