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GlaxoSmithKline, 23andMe Partner On DNA Data In Drug Development

GlaxoSmithKline, 23andMe Partner On DNA Data In Drug Development

Take-home DNA kits have quickly become the newest trend in genetic testing.

Founded in 2006, 23andMe has helped millions of customers access and understand their personal DNA information. Then in 2015, the company launched 23andMe Therapeutics to create treatments and cures based on genetic materials from consenting test subjects. 

23andMe dominates the market, serving millions of customers.

What Happened

Co-founder Anne Wojcicki announced a collaboration Wednesday with British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK). 

For a $300-million investment Glaxo will receive exclusive rights for four years to information obtained by the DNA company, thereby allowing researchers to analyze tests for drug research. 

Customer inquiries were a driving force for the collaboration, Wojcicki said. 

"I hear regularly from customers 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," she said. "23andMe has created a research platform to enable customers to actively participate in research — to not wait for solutions to appear, but for people to come together and make discoveries happen." 

Customers will be given the choice to participate, and can opt in or out at any time, according to 23andMe. 

Why It’s Important

While the collaboration could be a big step in breakthrough research, new genetic opportunities could make privacy an even bigger issue. 

Peter Pitts, president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest, shared his concerns with NBC News.

"Are they going to offer rebates to people who opt in so their customers aren’t paying for the privilege of 23andMe working with a for-profit company in a for-profit research project?” Pitts said. 

"When two for-profit companies enter into an agreement where the jewel in the crown is your gene sequence and you are actually paying for the privilege of participating, I think that's upside-down." 

What’s Next

Both 23andMe and Glaxo have been working on drug development and are optimistic on the outlook of this particular research and its benefit to the industry.

The agreement “could substantially change the cost it takes to develop drugs, or put differently, we could develop twice as many drugs for the same amount of money,” Glaxo’s chief science officer Hal Barron told the Los Angeles Times

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Photo courtesy of 23andMe. 


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