23andMe, GlaxoSmithKline join forces for genetic-based drug research

Drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline entered into a four-year collaboration with 23andMe to use human genetics to guide drug development, investing $300M in the direct-to-consumer genetic testing company to fund the effort, the companies said July 25.

Under the agreement, the pharmaceutical giant would have exclusive access to 23andMe's statistical analysis tools and massive DNA database. 23andMe boasts more than 5 million customers, 80 percent of whom have consented to research. GSK will use the information to discover novel drug targets and, based on those discoveries, develop therapies for unmet medical needs.

"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 Wojcicki said. "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."

The research and development activities will include:

1. Improving target selection for safer, more effective precision medicine discoveries. Using genetic data to select drug targets can "increase both the probability of success in a particular indication and avoid unwanted safety risks," the announcement states.

2. Identifying patient groups most likely to respond to targeted treatments. Customers' aggregated and de-identified data may help a joint GSK-23andMe drug discovery team uncover numerous associations between genetics and targeted treatments from a diverse range of people.

3. Allowing more effective identification and recruitment of patients for clinical studies. By revealing patients with a specific disease or genetic subgroup, patients could be invited to participate in various clinical studies, thereby streamlining the recruitment process.

All collaborative work between GSK and 23andMe will initially be equally co-funded.

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