23andMe To Leverage Database for Drug Research, Development

March 13, 2015 in News

On Thursday, the personal genetics company 23andMe announced it will launch a therapeutics group to develop new drugs using the genetic data it has collected from 850,000 individuals, the Wall Street Journal reports (Winslow, Wall Street Journal, 3/12).


23andMe uses saliva tests — which cost $99 each — to provide genetic testing. Since the company was founded in 2006, 23andMe has tested data from more than 800,000 individuals (iHealthBeat, 1/15). According to the AP/Los Angeles Times, about 680,000 of those individuals have given 23andMe consent to use their information for research and treatment development (AP/Los Angeles Times, 3/12).

Details of Announcement

According to 23andMe, the new group will be led by Richard Scheller, who formerly led Roche Holding AG’s research and early development program. Scheller will take over as chief science officer in April (Wall Street Journal, 3/12).

Scheller said two additional staff members will be hired to work in the group (Leuty, San Francisco Business Times/Silicon Valley Business Journal, 3/12).

The company said it hopes that data on mutations and other genetic information contained in its database will lead researchers to the development of new drugs targeting a range of common and rare diseases, including:

  • Cancer;
  • Eye diseases; and
  • Metabolic and immune system disorders.

Unlike contracts 23andMe shares with other drugmakers, Scheller said 23andMe’s efforts will “look broadly through the database and not have a particular restriction to what we’re looking for,” adding, “Then we’ll work on the very best and most convincing targets that come out of the search process” (Wall Street Journal, 3/12).

Pfizer Reaction

Jose-Carlos Gutierrez-Ramos — a group vice president for Pfizer, which has a separate partnership with 23andMe — said the formation of the therapeutics group will strengthen their partnership.

He said, “I’m going to have a partner that understands my business. In the past, you could tell that we had different business models. I see it as a win for us” (Dvorak, FierceHealthIT, 3/12).

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