Published On: Tue, Jan 13th, 2015

Genetic Testing Firm 23andMe to Provide DNA Data for Treatment of Diseases

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23andMe Inc., a genetic-testing startup backed by Google, is sharing DNA data on about 650, 000 individuals with Pfizer to help find new targets to treat disease and to design clinical trials, Bloomberg said.

The collaboration with Pfizer is the broadest announced so far in 23andMe’s ambitious plan to become a repository for humanity’s genetic makeup, and to turn data gathered from $99 saliva tests sold to consumers into multimillion-dollar deals with drugmakers, the report said.

The agreement unveiled Monday gives the U.S.’s largest drugmaker access to anonymous, aggregated information from consumers who bought 23andMe’s test over the past seven years to learn about their own genetic histories. It includes only people who agreed to let their data be used in research. Pfizer and 23andMe declined to give the deal’s value, Bloomberg said.

The Silicon Valley startup, named for the 23 pairs of chromosomes in human cells, is betting its growing troves of genetic data will prove essential to drug companies, medical researchers and even health and wellness companies, according to the report.

Even as it seeks to expand its consumer tests around the world, the company is repairing relations with the Food and Drug Administration. An agency ruling in late 2013 left 23andMe unable to sell health analyses from the saliva tests, Bloomberg said.

While about two-thirds of 23andMe’s 800, 000 customers agreed to let their test data be used in research, data-sharing agreements with drugmakers are likely to raise the hackles of privacy advocates who have questioned the wisdom of compiling highly personal information, the report said.

The deal gives Pfizer access to a broad cross-section of data, the first agreement in which a drugmaker has access 23andMe’s newly created research portal. 23andMe Chief Executive Officer Anne Wojcicki plans to pitch the service to other health companies this week at the JPMorgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco. The company plans to announce a total of 10 similar deals with drugmakers and biotechnology companies this year, Bloomberg said.

23andMe, based in Mountain View, California, is near the Bay Area’s biggest technology companies, including Google, co- founded by Wojcicki’s husband Sergey Brin. The two are separated, though still legally married, the report said.

Google’s venture-capital arm and investors such as Russian billionaire Yuri Milner, Johnson & Johnson and venture-capital firm New Enterprise Associates have contributed $126 million in funding to date, according to 23andMe, Bloomberg said.

The company isn’t yet profitable, and it’s too early to consider an initial public offering, Wojcicki said, according to the report.

The startup has also signed agreements on specific diseases, including one with Roche Holding’s Genentech unit announced last week, to study Parkinson’s disease patients. Genentech will use the data to find the connection between patients’ symptoms and other personal traits, and their genetics, said Alex Schuth, head of technology innovation and diagnostics in business development at Genentech, in a telephone interview, Bloomberg said.

Genentech is paying 23andMe $10 million upfront and as much as $50 million if the deal hits certain milestones, the report said.

23andMe was established in 2006. The biotech powerhouse has shown significant interest in research related to Parkinson’s after the mother of Google’s Brin was diagnosed with the disease. The Google co-founder has been diagnosed with a genetic mutation which increases the risk for him as well, SMN Weekly said.

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