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23andMe signs Parkinson’s deal with Genentech

Adds to list of pharma tie-ups for genetic testing firm

23andMe genetic testing kit

The Google-backed genetic testing company 23andMe has penned a new research pact with Roche subsidiary Genentech.

The deal, expected to be worth around $60m for 23andMe should it meet pre-set sales milestones, will focus on generating whole genome sequencing data for about 3,000 people with Parkinson's disease.

This is being done in order to identify new therapeutic targets for treating the degenerative neurological condition, which currently has few treatment options but affects more than one million Americans.

Under the agreement between the two companies after the multi-year deal ends, 23andMe can conduct additional research on the data and make it available to other Parkinson's researchers.

The data will be 'de-identified' and contributed only by individuals who provide explicit permission to 23andMe, the company said in a statement.

The deal adds to a spate of tie-ups the firm has had with pharma and biotech over the past 18 months, which includes a research deal made with Pfizer in August last year to help find the genetic cause of inflammatory bowel diseases.

23andMe already has a Parkinson's research process in place as in 2009 it recruited more than 10,000 people to identify genetic links to the disease. The firm did not say whether the new deal with Genentech would build on the data from this earlier research.

Of the personal genome testing companies - of which there are many - 23andMe may be the best known chiefly because it is backed by Google and the Facebook billionaire Yuri Milner.

The firm is also run by Anne Wojcicki, the wife of Google founder Sergey Brin, although they are now separated.

Wojcicki says: “I think that this illustrates how pharma companies are interested in the fact that we have a massive amount of information.”

23andMe has not had an easy time of late however, and last year it received a warning from the FDA over a DNA testing kit it was selling that was not approved by the US regulator.

Given this, the firm has had to pull its health testing kit from the US, although it has said it is working with the regulator to get it back on the market and its ancestry and raw genetic data tests remain on the market. Deals with pharma may prove more lucrative, as will tapping the data collected from the 800,000 customers since 2006.  

The kit was recently approved in the UK by the MHRA, although a number of doctors' organisations questioned whether patients should be testing for diseases such as cancer without a medical professional. 

Article by
Dominic Tyer

9th January 2015

From: Healthcare

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