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23andMe plans to use your genetic data to create new drugs

Nick Summers, @nisummers
March 13, 2015
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For over a year now, 23andMe has been stuck in a regulatory quagmire with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Although it's still able to sell its personal DNA kits, the company is effectively banned from offering health-related genetic tests in the US. A few weeks ago it was given the go-ahead for a single check, a rare disorder called Bloom syndrome, but it's only a small step towards the broader health reports it provided before. While it waits for wider FDA approval, 23andMe has decided to enter the drugs market. The company already works with major pharmaceutical firms including Pfizer and Genentech, but now it's prepared to go it alone. The startup has accrued a vast amount of health-related information from its users, so there's an obvious opportunity to apply that database to the field of medicine. Instead of just looking for health-related ailments, and offering users the results, 23andMe wants to go one step further and develop the cures too.

According to Bloomberg, 23andMe hasn't decided on any specific diseases or types of drugs to target first, and it hasn't ruling out working with other, more established pharmaceutical companies in the US either. Regardless, the direct relationship 23andMe has with its customers could be a potent combination. "By engaging [our users] and giving it to them as a prize, saying, 'You've powered this study and you've made this happen,' we can do things in a different way," 23andMe chief executive Anne Wojicki says.

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