Building a Google for healthcare?
CEO and co-founder, 23andMe
Like it or not, personal genomics is headed for mainstream status in healthcare. DNA testing has become too cheap and accessible, and the potential benefits to patients are too great, for this not to happen. In this upcoming healthcare era, who's going to be the Google-like search powerhouse, the Facebook-esque social hub? Led by Anne Wojcicki, 23andMe stands in a position to be a bit of both, potentially.
Late last year venture investors essentially doubled down on the Mountain View, CA-based personal genomics standout. At the time of the deal, more than 180,000 people had tapped the services of 23andMe, which offers genetic testing and provides online communities that enable people to track developments in genomics and pick up tips from others about managing their health.
With the $50 million round of Series D financing closed last year, 23andMe set out ambitious plans to whack down the price of its personal genetic test from $300 to $99 in a move that could dramatically increase its number of customers. 23andMe's growing database of genetic profiles empowers the company to offer patients access to clinical trials and study genetic trends across large populations.
In healthcare there's really no such thing as an equivalent to Google ($GOOG)--which happens to invest in 23andMe via its venture fund and whose cofounder, Sergey Brin, another backer, is married to Wojcicki. For all the efforts to share data, healthcare stakeholders keep data largely under lock and key--and no comprehensive search engine exists to, say, find a few thousand ideal patients from around the world for a clinical trial with a few clicks of the keyboard. Healthcare presents many privacy and technical hurdles to pull this off.
With a large enough cohort, however, 23andMe could become the closest thing to a Google for genomics searches and has already partnered with biopharma companies such as Genentech to study willing patients. Wojcicki has steered the company for more than 6 years through rapid changes in genomics, investing in technologies such as bioinformatics and last year opening up the company's API to enable external developers to provide more tools for its customer base.
The next several years should be exciting to watch.
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