23andMe Announces $60 Million Parkinson’s Deal With Genetech

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23andMe has signed a research contract with pharmaceutical giant Genetech that could be worth as much as $60 million over the life of the deal, suggesting that 23andMe may have finally found a new revenue source. The companies are teaming up to research new treatments for Parkinson’s Disease, using 23andMe’s genome data to support Genetech researchers looking for new genetic markers and potential treatments. As part of the deal, Genetech will pay 23andMe an immediate $10 million, with additional payments worth as much as $50 million due over the life of the deal if certain milestones are reached.

The deal marks a major turning point for 23andMe, which originally launched as a B2C company, selling personal genome analysis to the general public until it was shut down in November 2013 by the FDA. Since then, the company has been working to secure FDA clearance to return its flagship product to market, but thus far all efforts have been unsuccessful. Without a revenue source to fund its efforts, many in the industry wondered if the fledgling company would be able to overcome the blow to its operations. Now, it appears that 23andMe has found a new revenue source: data mining. During the announcement, 23andMe indicated that the Genetech deal is just the first of seven or eight new pharmaceutical clients it expects to close this year.

Since launching in 2006, 23andMe has sequenced 800,000 DNA samples and, as a condition of its service contract, owns the right to resell some of that data to organizations engaged in medical research. While its genome sequencing service is suspended in the US, sales have continued in Canada and the UK, so the company’s genome database is continuing to grow. 23andMe also partnered with Pfizer last year to sequence the DNA of 10,000 patients with inflammatory bowel disease.

Now, 23andMe is proving that it has the business acumen to upend its core business plan when needed. For Genetech, the company will move beyond its traditional genotyping service, which involves testing DNA data for certain known variants, and will instead begin running full-genome analysis on samples. The added data will help scientists find yet-to-be discovered abnormalities in the DNA of Parkinson’s patients.

The news follows the conclusion of a massive research project spearheaded by 23andMe this past summer in which more than 50 research organizations contributed genetic data, or data analysis services, in pursuit of breakthroughs in Parkinson’s disease research. The study analyzed seven million genetic variants from 13,000 patients with Parkinson’s and 100,000 patients without it, identifying six previously unknown genetic mutations that correlated with a higher risk of developing Parkinson’s.


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