23andMe bets on patient-driven research with CureTogether buyout

Personal genomics outfit 23andMe has expanded its presence in patient-driven research, gaining new tools and expertise in online collection of patients' disease information with its purchase of CureTogether. The buyout--financial terms of which weren't disclosed--builds on 23andMe's capabilities to use online platforms that let patients participate in disease research.

CureTogether, launched in 2008, offers more than 4 million phenotypic data points on more than 500 conditions. The company taps a set of tools to collect such data via the web, where patients have flocked to seek health information and share data about their medical conditions. CureTogether also provides a platform for patients to share their knowledge about diseases and treatment. And its offerings could complement those from 23andMe, a provider of consumer genetic tests that give information about ancestry and personalized health, which enables its customers to participate in online communities and take part in research.

Drug and device companies have begun to pay close attention to data patients share online, and disease researchers have increasingly tapped companies such as 23andMe and CureTogether for insights about patients. For 23andMe, the research market offers a major growth opportunity that builds on its roots in providing genetic tests, and the company has built one of the world's largest databases of genetic data on Parkinson's disease. CureTogether has collaborated with MIT, Stanford University, Cornell University and other groups on research projects.

CureTogether's disease-specific data, according to 23andMe, could pave the way to genetic discoveries.

23andMe co-founder and CEO Anne Wojcicki, who didn't reveal terms of her company's first buyout, said in prepared remarks that the acquisition "underscores 23andMe's commitment to helping individuals understand their own genetic information through proven DNA analysis technologies and web-based interactive tools; and generating patient-driven, informed-consent research as well as empowering our customers to use their personal genetic information to find connections and establish communities based on their DNA."

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