23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki
23andMe has moved to integrate its spit tests and the genetic data they generate into studies run on Apple's ($AAPL) ResearchKit framework. The move, which takes the form of a ResearchKit module, is intended to enable 23andMe customers to contribute their results to research programs, while also making it easier for the organizers of studies to generate genetic data.
Developers of ResearchKit studies can use the 23andMe module to add a genetic component to the datasets they collect, which were previously limited to pulling in data from iPhone sensors and the active contributions of participants. A Mount Sinai asthma research program and Stanford Medicine cardiovascular study, both of which predate the 23andMe module, have signed up to allow users to contribute their data. Down the line, 23andMe expects research teams to more actively generate genetic data by making its spit kits available to participants.
News of the ResearchKit module comes 10 months after MIT Technology Review reported Apple was planning to build 23andMe-style spit kits into its framework. At that time, 23andMe wasn't said to be involved in the initiative. Rather, academic partners were tipped to handle the collection of spit and generation of genetic data. One of the previously reported academic partners, Mount Sinai, is among the first groups to use the 23andMe module. Users of the Mount Sinai Asthma Health app who are also 23andMe customers can upload their genetic data after completing a consent form.
Other studies are eschewing 23andMe. A new ResearchKit study into postpartum depression will use spit kits from the National Institute of Mental Health to gather genetic data on participants. The end goal is the same regardless of the testing organization, though. "We're able to engage women with postpartum depression from a wide geographic and demographic range and can analyze the genomic signature of postpartum depression to help us find more effective treatments," Dr. Samantha Meltzer-Brody, leader of the project, said in a statement.