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Home DNA test results from 23andMe to help develop drugs

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Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline has invested $300 million into home DNA testing company 23andMe, allowing it to develop drugs based on human genetics.

The four-year agreement allows GSK access to 23andMe’s vast database to accelerate its drug research and development work. 

More than 5 million customers use 23andMe’s saliva kit to profile their genes. The kits allow users to uncover insights about their ancestry, other people who share your DNA, as well as discover how much of your DNA is Neanderthal.

“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, GSK’s Chief Scientific Officer and president R&D, said in a statement.

23andMe said it already has a portfolio of “early stage” research programmes, which both companies will look to include in the collaboration. 

The first project will be a treatment for Parkinson’s disease, which currently is in preclinical development. 80 percent of 23andMe’s customers have consented to participate in research, and the company said customers are always in control of their information.

“This collaboration will enable us to deliver on what many customers have been asking for — cures or treatments for diseases,” CEO of 23andMe, Anne Wojcicki, added in a statement.

As noted by Reuters, GSK is not the first drug giant to look at modern genetic data, with rivals Roche and AstraZeneca doing the same.

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