TechCrunch – 23andMe is best known for its $199 at-home spit-tube DNA test, but the consumer genetics company has been making strides in the last few years to get into drug development and research.
The company first began making moves early in 2015, forging a partnership with Pfizer to conduct a bit of drug research using 23andMe’s genetic data. The pact was formed in the midst of orders from the Food and Drug Administration that 23andMe cease sales of its consumer health report product, which drove a major portion of both 23andMe’s revenue and brand awareness at the time.
23andMe appeared to double down on that effort soon after, announcing a new therapeutics division, recruiting Genentech’s Richard Scheller to lead the program, and bringing on veteran scientists from the pharmaceuticals industry.
The FDA has slowly approved genetic health risk tests for certain diseases since. For example, soon after Scheller joined, the agency allowed 23andMe to conduct a test for the rare genetic disease Bloom Syndrome. Earlier this year, it green-lit 10 different genetic risk tests made by 23andMe, including for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
Meanwhile, 23andMe has continued hiring talent with deep roots in pharmaceuticals, including bringing aboard even more scientists from Genentech, which is also an early investor in 23andMe.
No wonder. The company now has more than 2 million consumers contributing DNA samples — 80 percent of whom have consented to the use of their information for research; that’s a pretty sizable database to mine for potential new drug targets.
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