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- Silicon Valley genetic testing startup 23andMe is making progress in its efforts to develop new drugs for everything from skin conditions to cancer and heart disease, the CEO said at an event last week.
- Therapeutics with the 23andMe label would be a "source of pride" for the company, she added.
- 23andMe now has 13 drug candidates in its pipeline with two compounds in the animal testing phase of research.
Could 23andMe-branded drugs one day grace the shelves of your medicine cabinet?
Anne Wojcicki, the cofounder and CEO of the Silicon Valley genetic testing startup, said it would be a "source of pride" if that happened. Her comments came during a panel at a health and tech conference organized by the Wall Street Journal.
23andMe has been working on creating its own drugs for everything from skin conditions to cancer and heart disease since 2015, when it hired former Genentech executive Richard Scheller to head up the program.
Wojcicki said she was "hopeful" for the day when there could be drugs branded with the 23andMe label.
Today, the company has 13 compounds in early stages of research, she said, and two of them are in a later phase of testing in animals. A team of at least 10 scientists is currently focused on studying those compounds, according to 23andMe’s website.
23andMe also sells anonymized genetic data to drug companies for their own research initiatives. Last summer, for example, the pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline acquired a $300 million stake in 23andMe and struck a drug-development deal with the company. The startup also has partnerships with at least four other drug companies: Pfizer, Biogen, Genentech, and Alnylam. It’s also working with P&G Beauty, the company behind products like Crest toothpaste and Ivory soap.
Traditionally, the process of creating new therapeutics can be long and costly. Some 86% of all drug candidates never make it into approved drugs, according to one recent analysis published in the journal Biostatistics.
But in contrast to most drug development work, which relies heavily on animal models and animal DNA, 23andMe’s efforts begin with human data. The startup already has data from roughly 14 million customers.
Wojcicki said that by starting with a data from people instead of animals, it’s possible that 23andMe could have a higher chance of success at creating drugs that work.
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