How 23andMe Will Mine its Giant DNA Database for Health and Wealth

Since the launch of DNA testing service 23andMe, around 10 million people have spit a half-teaspoon of saliva into a 23andMe plastic tube and mailed it in to get their ancestry or health-risk results. Nearly 5 million customers did so last year alone, generating an estimated $475 million in revenue for the company, which has yet to turn a profit. It’s also made CEO Anne Wojcicki (No. 33 on this year’s list of Richest Self-Made Women) worth an estimated $690 million, almost entirely from her roughly 30% stake in 23andMe, which is valued at $2.5 billion by investors.

While it might make interesting cocktail conversation to reveal that you are 5% Scandinavian and have a genetic disposition to sneeze in the sun, 23andMe’s ambitions are much grander.

Wojcicki wants to leverage the exponentially plunging costs of genetic sequencing (down 99% in a decade) and 23andMe’s massive DNA library (the world’s largest genetic research database) to fuel a “biotech machine” that will not just indicate genetic predispositions to certain diseases but also help create the drugs that will treat those diseases. The brilliance is that, if all goes as planned, 23andMe gets paid on both ends. Customers pay to find out about their heritage and then the company uses that genetic data to one day profit from potential new medicines. Eighty percent of 23andMe’s customers consent to allow their DNA to be used for biomedical research.

You can read the full story in an article by Biz Carson and Kathleen Chaykowski in the Forbes web site at: http://bit.ly/2MyHPTL.

One Comment

Bruce Butterfield June 11, 2019 at 5:12 pm

Ah, yes, the “sneeze in the sun” gene! I and my 13-year-old elder sister shared that annoying and embarrassing problem. I believe it may also be related to the “asparagus gene”, which will have meaning only to those who eat asparagus and notice a peculiar consequense some time later.
I am reasonably certain that these characteristics are related to the X chromosome, since I passed it on to my daughter but not my son, meaning that I got it from my Mom, who was a “K” mitochondrial carrier.

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