Russian billionaire backs 23andMe in $50M round

In a move to expand, personal genomics company 23andMe has rallied investors for a $50 million Series D round of financing. The fourth-round financing came with news that the company, which had offered its personal genetic test for about $300, is cutting the price to $99.

The reduction in price could rapidly expand the number of people who decide to buy genetic tests from the company, which has the stated goal of growing to more than 1 million customers. The Mountain View, CA-based company has more than 180,000 customers today.

Russian billionaire Yuri Milner was named along with 23andMe co-founder and CEO Anne Wojcicki (one of Fierce's 2012 Women in Biotech), her husband and Google co-founder Sergey Brin, Google Ventures, New Enterprise Associates, and MPM Capital. Among the uses of the new financing will be to support the price cut for the company's tests, software development, research, recruitment and marketing.

23andMe, founded in 2006, supports online communities and resources that enable its customers to stay updated on new genetic findings and what the discoveries could mean about their health, among other things. Pharma companies such as Genentech have tapped 23andMe to conduct studies, and 23andMe has built the world's largest database of genetic profiles on patients with Parkinson's disease.

A key to the company's future is to continue to build up a large data set of genetic information that research customers from industry and academia can use for their work.

"A community of one million actively engaged individuals will be transformational for research," Wojcicki said in a statement. "A community of this magnitude will improve researchers' ability to quickly answer questions about genetic function and the role of environmental factors. In addition, it will enable researchers to understand medication efficacy and side effects, in both medications that exist today and medications are that are in development."

- here's the release
- see what Forbes wrote about 23andMe's test

Special Report: Anne Wojcicki - Women in Biotech 2012