JUL 31, 2018 10:06 PM PDT

DNA For Drug Development?

WRITTEN BY: Nouran Amin

Genetic data of individuals who were customers of DNA testing service for the purpose of understanding their ancestry and genetic history, such as the company 23andME, could now be utilized for the development of new drugs.

23andMe, the home DNA testing service, announced a 4-year deal with pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), giving the manufacturer exclusive rights to genetic data of 23andMe's customers. "I started 23andMe with the belief that by getting people interested in learning about themselves and participating in research, we would all benefit," says Anne Wojcicki, CEO of 23andMe. "Today is an important milestone in how 23andMe will be able to impact the lives of those with disease and how we will be able to improve the future of healthcare.” However, this did not happen without permission, 23andMe users were asked if they agree to participants of future scientific research, an opt-in clause that has extended into an active drug discovery research project. “Customers can opt in or out at any time if they don't wish to participate in the research,” Wojcicki wrote in a blog post. “Ideally, the partnership will accelerate the development of pharmaceutical breakthroughs and advance the company's mission of improving healthcare.”

According to a GSK announcement, the collaboration will place a focused effort on the discovery of precision medicines based purely on genetic data. More specifically, identifying patient subgroups that will likely benefit and respond to targeted treatments, as well as more efficiently recruiting patients with certain diseases to participate in clinical studies. Additionally, the announcement explained that over 80 percent of 23andMe’s customer base has agreed to participate in research. Now, a gene called LRRK2 in the first project between the collaboration of GSK and 23andMe, is being examined in the pre-clinical phase that serves as a potential way to develop new drugs for treating Parkinson's disease.

About the Author
  • Nouran is a scientist, educator, and life-long learner with a passion for making science more communicable. When not busy in the lab isolating blood macrophages, she enjoys writing on various STEM topics.
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