Genetic Testing and Drug Companies Partner to Develop New Medicines

Since its launch, 23andMe has provided more than 8 million customers with information about their ancestry and predisposition to developing certain diseases. Now, a partnership between the genetic test kit company and drug manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline has yielded six new potential drug targets.

The venture takes advantage of the genetic data gathered from 23andMe users, as well as the information collected from the kits’ health questionnaires. By combining this information, researchers will be able to compare self-reported data with genetic data to better understand the interaction between genetics and different medical conditions.

One such target is a gene called LRRK2, a rare mutation that increases one’s risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. The rarity of the mutation makes trial-recruitment difficult, but 23andMe could help address this issue, as it has contact information for 7,500 carriers.

Despite the benefits of using genetic data in drug development, some urge caution: “Consumers really need to think about what they’re getting into,” said Richard Forno, PhD, assistant director of the Center for Cybersecurity at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. “Where’s that data going, and who’s getting it?”

Source: The Wall Street Journal, July 22, 2019.