23andMe pioneered direct-to-consumer personal genetic testing in 2007, earning TIME magazine’s product invention of the year. Its growth has been rapid, genotyping over one million people by 2015 and more than five million three years later. Now it’s hoping to spur medical breakthroughs and treatments in a landmark deal with GlaxoSmithKline.
Its customer database is not only valuable to its members for determining ancestry and genetic traits, but to the medical science community. Anonymized, white-labeled customer data enables its own and medical researchers using 23andMe data to study conditions such as Parkinson’s disease with the hope of developing drugs and even a cure.
It’s always voluntary whether 23andMe customers choose to participate in research and contribute their information to its unique and dynamic database, which is now the world’s largest genetic and phenotypic resource.
The privately-held personal genomics and biotech company—named for the 23 pairs of chromosomes in a normal human cell—is excited about its latest medical research partnership, and not only because it brings an $300M equity investment. GSK and 23andMe have announced an agreement to leverage genetic insights for the development of medicines, a first for the startup.
The four-year collaboration is expected to “identify novel drug targets, tackle new subsets of disease and enable rapid progression of clinical programs… and potential cures” according to GSK.
“We are excited about this unique collaboration as we know that drug targets with genetic validation have a significantly higher chance of ultimately demonstrating benefit for patients and becoming medicines,” stated Dr. Hal Barron, Chief Scientific Officer and President R&D, GSK.
“Partnering with 23andMe, an organisation whose vision and capabilities are transforming the understanding of how genes influence health, will help to shift our research and development organization to be ‘driven by genetics’ and increase the impact GSK can have on patients,” he added.
“This collaboration will enable us to deliver on what many customers have been asking for—cures or treatments for diseases,” 23andMe CEO and Co-Founder Anne Wojcicki added.
“By leveraging the genetic and phenotypic information provided by consenting 23andMe customers and combining it with GSK’s incredible expertise and resources in drug discovery, we believe we can more quickly make treating and curing diseases a reality.”
Read more about the R&D partnership here, and read Wojcicki’s note to 23andMe members below:
Since the inception of 23andMe, our mission has been to help people access, understand and benefit from the human genome. We have spent the last decade focused on enabling people to get access to their genome and understand what it means. We have also built a significant research team that has published over 100 scientific papers. In 2015, we launched 23andMe Therapeutics to develop novel treatments and cures based on genetic insights from the consented 23andMe community.
Today, I am thrilled to announce that we are launching a collaboration with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) to accelerate our ability to make those novel treatments and cures a reality.
I hear regularly from customers, like you, that they want to be part of a solution that is improving health care. We all have some disease or health issue that we care about. 23andMe has created a research platform to enable interested customers to participate in research—to not wait for solutions to appear, but for people to come together and make discoveries happen.
By working with GSK, we believe we will accelerate the development of breakthroughs. Our genetic research—powered by millions of customers who have agreed to contribute—combined with GSK’s expertise in drug discovery and development, gives us the best chance for success.
Our top priority is you, the customer, and empowering you with the options to participate in research. As always, you choose whether or not to participate in research. You can choose to opt-in or opt-out at any time.
I started 23andMe with the belief that by getting people interested in learning about themselves and participating in research, we would all benefit. Today is an important milestone in how 23andMe will be able to impact the lives of those with disease and how we will be able to improve the future of healthcare.