(My husband keeps reminding me "It's all about business. Just business". I keep forgetting that, and hoping for something more. madelyn)
23andMe sets stage for stronger ties with pharma
November 29, 2012 | By Ryan McBride
Anne Wojcicki co-founded 23andMe in 2006 with the big idea that informing patients about their genetics would empower them to take control of their health destinies rather than becoming slaves to the healthcare system. With more than 180,000 people who have had 23andMe analyze their genes, Wojcicki has turned the big idea into reality for many of those who have used its personal genomics service.
Less clear is whether the venture-backed company will be able to deliver returns for its investors, but Wojcicki and her team have shown that its research and biopharma ties could benefit patients and its bottom line...
Big Pharma has taken a big interest in 23andMe's platform. The rich data could have profound impacts on the development of new treatments and diagnostics, and 23andMe has taken steps to partner with pharma researchers as one of the company's growing lines of business.
"We are doing more partnerships with pharma companies or biotech companies," Wojcicki said. "The role of 23andMe is to have an influence in and a partnership with the biopharma world. And I think, more and more, as the database grows we're able to effectively leverage this database and do partnerships with pharma companies that I think will ultimately really benefit our customers."...
Beyond supporting Genentech's research goals, 23andMe has raised its game in making discoveries with implications for patient treatment. Wojcicki revealed in May that the company was awarded a patent for its own discovery of a gene that could be protective to a risk factor for developing Parkinson's disease, giving biotech researchers a potential drug target. "If the follow up work we are now doing with the Scripps Research Institute and the Michael J. Fox Foundation looks promising and moves towards drug development," Wojcicki wrote on the company's blog, "the patent will be important for a biotech or pharmaceutical company to pursue drug development."
The news stirred enough of a kerfuffle among patients, some of whom questioned the ethics of profiting from the discovery, for Wojcicki to add an addendum to her May 28 blog post that announced the Parkinson's patent award.
"23andMe will not prevent others from accessing their genetic data or its interpretation specific to our patents," Wojcicki's June 1 addendum stated. "Other entities can present information about the genetic associations covered in our patents without licensing fees. As has always been the case, 23andMe customers can freely apply their raw genetic data to other interpretation tools whenever they wish."...
Wojcicki made clear in her blog post that she's running a business. Though that business has a mission of benefiting patients, the company is clearly seeking to protect a potentially lucrative discovery and is seeking ways to grow. The company has raised three rounds of VC money ... according to Wojcicki, 23andMe is not yet profitable but is moving toward putting itself in the black.
Still, 23andMe faces a challenge of balancing its growth as a biopharma partner and player in the research world with maintaining the trust of the people whose genetic profiles helped build the company's valuable data set.
"There was a lot of backlash when they got their Parkinson's … patent," Dan Vorhaus, an attorney specializing in personalized medicine and genetics, told FierceBiotech in an interview. "I think they've got some real potential in terms of the data set that they've been generating, but it's all dependent on having this large and growing and active user base that they can query."
Wojcicki is a true trailblazer in personal genomics, but there's work to be done to prove that her big idea of empowering patients through informing them about their genetics can be profitable. -- Ryan McBride
Read more: 23andMe sets stage for stronger ties with pharma - FierceBiotech http://www.fiercebiotech.com/story/2...#ixzz2DfrNPkEV