23andMe sells access to biobank to more than 13 drug companies


In 2015, the DNA testing company 23andMe revealed it had sold access to the DNA information it had collected from the 1.2 million people who had paid for genetic testing to more than 13 drug companies. One of these was Genentech, which paid $10 million to look at the genes of people with Parkinson's Disease. At that point, 23andMe had the world's largest database that combined DNA samples with extensive, voluntarily-submitted personal and health information, connections that are valuable to researchers investigating new drugs. That biobank, for example, showed a link between genetic variations and whether customers considered themselves early risers. Critics complain about 23andMe's usage of this data as a commodity, but since the company has never been profitable it's not clear how else it can make money. 23andMe has also faced regulatory action from the US Food and Drug Administration, which forced the company to take its flagship health test off the market in 2013 on the basis that the tests were inaccurate and dangerous, as consumers might not fully understand the results they were given. Since then, 23andMe has been permitted to resume supplying some of the health information it formerly provided.


Writer: Antonio Regalado
Publication: Technology Review

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