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The pharma giant hopes to use the data for drug discovery.
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) today announced a $300 million investment in 23andMe, striking an exclusive four-year deal with the direct-to-consumer testing company to leverage its genetic data in the development of new drugs.
In the announcement, the pharma company said the collaboration will home in on new drug targets driving disease progression and therapies for “serious unmet medical needs.” GSK’s scientific, medical and commercial knowledge will complement 23andMe’s troves of genetic information and data science expertise.
“This collaboration will enable us to deliver on what many customers have been asking for: cures or treatments for diseases,” 23andMe CEO and co-founder Anne Wojicki said in a statement.
The deal highlights the value in a side of 23andMe’s operation that isn’t typically advertised in TV commercials: genetic data. Since its founding in 2006, the company has served more than 5 million customers who were eager to better understand their genetic roots, either through the lens of disease risk or ancestry.
Customers may choose whether to “participate in research and contribute their information to a unique and dynamic database,” GSK noted in the announcement. More than 80 percent consent to this use, making 23andMe’s trove of data the world’s largest, according to GSK.
“By leveraging the genetic and phenotypic information provided by consenting 23andMe customers and combining it with GSK’s incredible expertise and resources in drug discovery, we believe we can more quickly make treating and curing diseases a reality,” Wojikci said.
The partners aim to improve target selection to support the development of precision medicines, better identify patient subgroups for targeted treatments and develop more effective participant recruitment methods for clinical trials.
“We are excited about this unique collaboration, as we know that drug targets with genetic validation have a significantly higher chance of ultimately demonstrating benefit for patients and becoming medicines,” Hal Barron, M.D., GSK’s chief scientific officer and president of research and development, said in a statement.
He added that the partnership will spark a shift in the pharma giant’s research to a place where it is “driven by genetics.”
The deal runs for four years, beginning immediately, with an option to extend the program for an extra year. No other companies may work with 23andMe on drug target discovery initiatives during that window.
What’s more, 23andMe “currently has a portfolio of early stage therapeutic research [programs] across a wide range of disease indications,” which will now be taken up by the collaboration.
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