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Thread: 23andMe's Pharma Deals

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    23andMe's Pharma Deals

    23andMe's Pharma Deals Have Been the Plan All Along

    'Since the launch of its DNA testing service in 2007, genomics giant 23andMe has convinced more than 5 million people to fill a plastic tube with half a teaspoon of saliva. In return for all that spit (and some cash too), customers get insights into their biological inheritance, from the superficial—do you have dry earwax or wet?—to mutations associated with disease. What 23andMe gets is an ever-expanding supply of valuable behavioral, health, and genetic information from the 80 percent of its customers who consent to having their data used for research.

    So last week’s announcement that one of the world’s biggest drugmakers, GlaxoSmithKline, is gaining exclusive rights to mine 23andMe’s customer data for drug targets should come as no surprise. (Neither should GSK’s $300 million investment in the company). 23andMe has been sharing insights gleaned from consented customer data with GSK and at least six other pharmaceutical and biotechnology firms for the past three and a half years. And offering access to customer information in the service of science has been 23andMe’s business plan all along, as WIRED noted when it first began covering the company more than a decade ago.

    But some customers were still surprised and angry, unaware of what they had already signed (and spat) away. GSK will receive the same kind of data pharma partners have generally received—summary level statistics that 23andMe scientists gather from analyses on de-identified, aggregate customer information—though it will have four years of exclusive rights to run analyses to discover new drug targets. Supporting this kind of translational work is why some customers signed up in the first place. But it’s clear the days of blind trust in the optimistic altruism of technology companies are coming to a close.

    “I think we’re just operating now in a much more untrusting environment,” says Megan Allyse, a health policy researcher at the Mayo Clinic who studies emerging genetic technologies. “It’s no longer enough for companies to promise to make people healthy through the power of big data.” Between the fall of blood-testing unicorn Theranos and Facebook’s role in the 2016 election attacks, “I think everything from here on out will be subject to much higher levels of public scrutiny,” Allyse says.

    23andMe maintains that transparency is a core tenet of the company. “I think a really important distinction to make is that 23andMe operates under an independent ethical review board that oversees all of our research,” says Emily Drabant Conley, 23andMe’s vice president of business development, who oversaw the announcement of the GSK deal. “The guidelines we follow are essentially the same as what other research institutions follow.” So they should apply to any of the analyses GSK might want to run on 23andMe data, like a PheWAS, which connects constellations of symptoms and conditions across many people with a single genetic mutation they all share.'


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    This is tricky. It could have been about and it could be about any other company which sells DNA tests.

    Next step would be to make people pay more for health insurances just because they are more likely to develop certain diseases, according to their research? Maybe... But beyond this, I'm sure there are other interests too.

    I don't think things are going in the right direction.

    This is a good reason not to give to such companies your DNA, unless you want to become a supporter of the Big Pharma (and some others behind it).
    Die Farben duften frisch und grün... Lieblich haucht der Wind um mich.

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    I pretty much already knew this. Same with https://www.ancestry.com/

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    Quote Originally Posted by Víðálfr View Post
    This is tricky. It could have been about and it could be about any other company which sells DNA tests.

    Next step would be to make people pay more for health insurances just because they are more likely to develop certain diseases, according to their research? Maybe... But beyond this, I'm sure there are other interests too.

    I don't think things are going in the right direction.

    This is a good reason not to give to such companies your DNA, unless you want to become a supporter of the Big Pharma (and some others behind it).
    (or pay less, because they are a lower risk), which is only fair insurance works on the principle of presumed risk of those insured.

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