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Genentech makes $10m gene testing outlay

Published on 08/01/15 at 12:02pm
23andme image
The 23andMe testing kits are available for £125 in the UK and $99 in the US

Genentech has thrown its weight behind the contentious DNA testing company 23andMe, by agreeing a deal to buy the genomic sequences of 3,000 people with Parkinson’s disease.

The deal will see the Swiss giant’s biotech arm pay $10 million for genomes acquired from 23andMe customers, who all gave their permission for their anonymous genetic information to be shared for medical research.

In a statement, the companies say the goal of the collaboration is “to identify new therapeutic targets for treating Parkinson’s disease”.

The 23andMe testing kits are available for £125 in the UK and $99 in the US. In December the company gained approval from the MHRA to market its personalised gene testing service in the UK.

But it can only offer a streamlined service in the US, after the FDA banned 23andMe from marketing the health risk assessment element of its test – which it deemed to be a medical device – without regulatory approval.

As a result, it is believed the company’s business model relies at least in part on striking lucrative deals for data with research companies. In August the firm announced a deal with Pfizer to buy genetic information from 10,000 people with irritable bowel disease.

Parkinson’s disease is a suitable candidate for big data research projects as there are currently no treatments available that slow its progression.  Some medications can improve symptoms in some patients, but much more research is needed to identify more effective treatments that can slow or halt Parkinson’s.

“Genentech is dedicated to bringing forth treatments for patients with unmet medical needs,” says James Sabry, senior vice president and global head of Genentech partnering. “We are thrilled to be working with 23andMe and its diverse database of genomic data to support our research and development programs.”

23andMe president Andy Page adds: “We are incredibly excited to work with Genentech, and for the potential to make true breakthroughs in therapeutic research and treatment for Parkinson’s disease.

“23andMe’s research platform is unlike any other for fuelling genomic discoveries that have the potential to help treat and solve disease. This collaboration is truly emblematic of both companies’ broader vision of improving the human condition through genetic research.”

Lilian Anekwe

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