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23andMe will offer your genetic data to researchers (with your consent)

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The genetic samples you send to 23andMe aren't just useful for discovering your roots or potential illnesses -- they could soon help pharmaceutical research, too. The company has struck a deal that opens its DNA research platform to Pfizer's scientists, letting them use the data to quickly find links between genes and certain conditions or traits. The two firms will also partner on genome-level studies and trials, such as one that will ask for 5,000 volunteers to help understand the genetic properties of lupus.

The 23andMe team is quick to note that it's only handing over your data if you've consented to using your spit samples for research. It's also providing this data anonymously, so Pfizer and its partners won't start marketing drugs to you based on your genetic makeup. Nonetheless, it's easy to see at least some people being nervous about forking over their DNA to a private business instead of a non-profit organization like a medical college. This isn't described as an exclusive pact, though, and 23andMe is no doubt hoping that the net benefit of more effective treatments will offset any concerns you might have about private research.

[Image credit: Tomasz Wyszołmirski, Getty]

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