Founded in 2006, 23andMe is a genomics company which developed a saliva-based personal genome test, deemed the invention of the year in 2008 by the Time magazine. However, because the test had not received FDA approval, it was withdrawn in 2013. Now, the Google-backed company has announced its intention to search its very large DNA database in order to find possible connections between genetic information or mutations and the effectiveness of various treatments. Along with health information provided by patients, these facts might be correlated into comprehensive analyses which could yield precious clues for the development of new medication.
Pharma giants like Pfizer are also involved in this project – a dozen pharmaceutical companies have already agreed with 23andMe to use the genetic data in order to find hints about possible cures for specific diseases. Richard Scheller, who according to Wall Street Journal will be appointed chief science officer for 23andMe in April, declared that Roche Holding AG, his former company, had signed an agreement to gain access to 23andMe data concerning Parkinson’s disease.
After the long FDA ban, 23andMe finally received approval from the FDA to test for a condition called Bloom syndrome. The test kit, which is now available, allows patients to detect if they carry a genetic mutation which could cause their children to suffer from the disease.
23andMe founding member and Chief Executive Office Anne Wojcicki explains that her company’s goal is to engage patients in their relationship with pharmaceutical companies not just as subjects of treatment, but also as providers of data. She thinks of the research she conducts as a form of providing patients with feedback from the use of their own data, and aims to make people aware that they have had a major contribution to the finding of their cure.
23andMe, who received a $3,900,000 investment from Google in 2007, as well as four research grants from the U.S. National Institutes of Health, is the most important private company to conduct research and publish scientific articles in the field of genetics. They have discovered hundreds of new genetic associations. Every person who contributes with data for research automatically participates in about 230 studies.
image source: Diabetes Insider