23andMe is Sharing Users' Data Again, This Time With Pfizer

23andMe is Sharing Users' Data Again, This Time With Pfizer
January 14, 2015
By Mark Terry, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

Mountain View, Calif.-based 23andMe announced yesterday that it had entered into an agreement with Pfizer Inc. The deal will provide Pfizer with access to 23andMe’s research platform, which will include Research Portal analysis of 23andMe’s 800,000 genotyped individuals.

The company has backing from Google Ventures and Facebook billionaire Yuri Milner, as well as Google founder Sergey Brin, whose wife runs 23andMe.

More than 80 percent of those 800,000 people had agreed to participate in what was initially billed as nonprofit research.

23andMe’s Research Portal and custom research tools may benefit Pfizer by helping to understand some potential linkages between genetic traits and disease,” said Andy Page, 23andMe’s president in a statement. “By enabling genetic research on a larger scale, we hope to help our partners to speed the development of potential new therapies.”

As part of the deal, the two companies will collaborate on some genome-wide association studies, surveys and clinical trial recruitment. One of those studies will focus on the genetics of lupus and enroll and genotype 5,000 individuals into a new lupus research community. This will require the integration of medical records and targeted bio-sampling with the genetic information.

“The expanding collaboration with 23andMe provides access to a wealth of data,” said Jose-Carlos Gutierrez-Ramos, group senior vice president and head of BioTherapeutics Research & Development at Pfizer in a statement. “The better we understand the genetic heterogeneity of complex diseases, the faster we may be able to accelerate the pace of development for potential new treatments for the right patient subpopulation.”

No financial deals of the agreement were released. Last week 23andMe announced a similar deal with South San Francisco-based Genentech to work together to identify new therapies for Parkinson’s disease. In that deal 23andMe will receive $10 million in an upfront payment and up to $50 million in milestone payments. That deal was the first in seven to eight similar agreements 23andMe plans to announce in upcoming months.

23andMe is a privately-held company founded in 2006 by Linda Avey, Paul Cusenza and Anne Wojcicki. Named for the 23 pairs of human chromosomes, the company started out marketing a saliva-based direct-to-consumer personal genome test. But the Food Drug Administration forced the company to pull it from the market because it was being advertised as a medical device, which required FDA approval, which 23andMe did not have.

The kits are still available, but the health-related reports that came with its results are no longer included. The tests now only provides raw genetic data and ancestry information.

Whether it will get more strongly back into the consumer genetics business is up to the FDA at the moment, but meanwhile the company’s vast DNA depository and capabilities for genomic analysis has the interest of biotech and pharma companies.

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