It’s No Surprise That 23andMe Created a Drug From Customers’ Genetic Data

It’s the first and likely not the last to come out of the company

Emily Mullin
OneZero
Published in
4 min readJan 13, 2020

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Photo: Eric Baradat/Getty Images

FFor over a decade, genetic testing company 23andMe has been amassing a trove of DNA data extracted from the spit its customers mail in to be analyzed. Now for the first time, the Silicon Valley firm has licensed a drug it developed using that genetic information.

Last week, 23andMe signed an agreement to allow the Spanish pharmaceutical company Almirall to further develop and commercialize the drug, which is designed to block certain small proteins associated with a variety of inflammatory diseases, including skin conditions and Crohn’s disease. The financial details of the deal were not disclosed. According to Bloomberg, 23andMe tested the drug in animals and is most interested in its potential to treat severe forms of psoriasis, a chronic skin condition linked to the immune system that affects more than 8 million Americans.

This news might come as a surprise to customers who consented to sharing their data for research at one point without knowing that it would be used for commercial purposes. But for the past several years, it’s been 23andMe’s strategy to mine its vast genetic database to find new medicines. 23andMe’s ambitions for drug development became…

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Emily Mullin
OneZero

Former staff writer at Medium, where I covered biotech, genetics, and Covid-19 for OneZero, Future Human, Elemental, and the Coronavirus Blog.