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Fierce JPM Week: How 23andMe plans to harness its huge database to additional its ambitions in drug growth

Drug growth is dear, can take years to finish and the method does not assure a novel remedy for treating illness.

However client genetic testing firm 23andMe is forging forward to leverage its huge database of genetic knowledge for analysis and to make and promote its personal therapies.

Anne Wojcicki, 23andMe’s CEO and co-founder, has usually mentioned the corporate’s mission, from the start, is to assist folks “entry, perceive and profit from the human genome.”

Utilizing genetic knowledge primarily based on the corporate’s 12 million genotype prospects and billions of phenotypic knowledge factors offers 23andMe a definite aggressive benefit for its therapeutics enterprise, Kenneth Hillan, 23andMe’s head of therapeutics, mentioned Thursday through the digital Fierce JPM Week occasion.

“We discuss it as our secret energy. It truly is that statistical energy, the dimensions and scale of our databases, and utilizing genetics to see issues by way of drug targets inside illnesses that others simply cannot see,” he mentioned.

“What’s actually underappreciated in regards to the 23andMe databases is that we get to look not simply on the genetics and a single indication, however we get to have a look at genetics throughout 1,200 or so completely different indications,” he mentioned. “That type of knowledge gives an unlimited benefit, each in discovery but additionally in translation and never simply throughout the analysis setting, but additionally after we transfer issues into the clinic by way of actually matching our drug targets with sufferers. And finally, transferring these ahead to the market in a approach that we hope will maximize profit whereas minimizing danger for sufferers.”


Earlier this month, 23andMe introduced it began medical trials of its first drug developed solely in-house, an immuno-oncology antibody aimed toward treating stable tumors. The corporate at the moment has two immuno-oncology medication underneath growth, with one in all them created by means of a partnership with pharmaceutical big GlaxoSmithKline PLC. 

GlaxoSmithKline additionally exercised its possibility to increase a partnership with 23andMe. The corporate will obtain a one-time $50 million fee as a part of that settlement. 

That collaboration has resulted in additional than 40 genetically validated drug discovery applications within the GSK portfolio. 

The corporate is betting that its strategy to drug growth harnessing the “energy” of its database will repay.

“The primary premise is that you simply begin with a goal that is validated with human genetics, as all of our targets are, and there may be revealed proof from a number of sources indicating that can double and even probably triple the general likelihood of success,” Hillan mentioned. “In an business the place a mean of solely perhaps one in 10 to at least one in 14 applications makes it, whenever you double the likelihood of success, the influence of that truly on a portfolio is big.”

The corporate went public in June through a merger with Richard Branson’s clean verify firm again. The corporate raised almost $600 million in gross proceeds by means of the transaction. It had about $700 million in money readily available as of Sept. 30.

“We’re concerned with bringing ahead significant medicines to sufferers that can assist to remodel their life. It is an costly endeavor, however with the corporate going public and with the GSK collaboration, it permits us to hold ahead a portfolio and it’ll permit us to make very data-driven choices in regards to the applications we proceed versus those who we cease. We’re actually leveraging human genetics to extend that likelihood of general success,” Hillan mentioned. 

RELATED: 23andMe jumps into telehealth, prescription drug supply with $400M buyout of Lemonaid Well being

Going public has given 23andMe the monetary firepower to make strategic investments, resembling shopping for Lemonaid Well being, a digital care and pharmacy supplier, in October in a $400 million deal.

The corporate additionally just lately tallied up its third FDA clearance for a genetic well being danger report, this one to determine whether or not a biomarker for prostate most cancers is current in a consumer’s DNA. Thus far, 23andMe’s trio of direct-to-consumer most cancers danger exams are the one ones cleared by the FDA to be used with out requiring a prescription.

Within the realm of drug discovery, 23andMe has set its sights on immuno-oncology therapies. “It is one space the place we expect our knowledge lends itself to figuring out novel targets,” Hillan mentioned.

He added, “Some examples of illnesses in immunology embody systemic lupus erythematosus and systemic sclerosis.” The corporate is at the moment recruiting folks for a analysis research centered on higher understanding the underlying genetic and environmental elements that contribute to systemic sclerosis.

RELATED: 23andMe snags third FDA nod for most cancers danger check, this time for prostate most cancers

However the firm’s ambitions might prolong past that.

Hillan mentioned 23andMe additionally is concentrated on areas of “excessive unmet medical want” in addition to cardio-metabolic illnesses.

“We simply have an unlimited quantity of knowledge. We’re actually seeking to make the most of that knowledge in some particular indications, for instance, sort 2 diabetes and people applications are at an earlier stage,” he mentioned.

Hillan, who beforehand labored at biotech firms earlier than becoming a member of 23andMe in 2019, sees the promise of the corporate’s capability to marry the patron, analysis and therapeutics sides of the enterprise.

“Drug discovery and growth is a really gradual and inefficient course of. I am enthusiastic about with the ability to use this knowledge to maneuver with larger agility and extra nimbly and extra rapidly in order that finally we are able to get therapies transferring ahead and into the clinic to check if these have the potential to turn into medicines that may actually assist sufferers,” he mentioned.

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