|Anne Wojcicki--Courtesy of 23andMe|
Pfizer ($PFE) and 23andMe have teamed up to identify genetic factors linked to inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). And with 23andMe trumpeting the fact that people can participate without leaving their homes, the study represents a continuation of Pfizer's interest in virtual trials.
23andMe is recruiting 10,000 people with IBD, each of whom will be asked to complete an online survey and be given its $99 spit test for free. By combing through the resulting data, the partners aim to come closer to finding a treatment for the 1.4 million people in the U.S. with IBD. "We're hoping within a year or two to have some meaningful genetic data and that it might lead to either an improved therapy or a new therapy for IBD," 23andMe spokesperson Catherine Afarian told Reuters.
Both companies have kept quiet about the financial aspects of the deal, with neither willing to say whether Pfizer has an exclusive license to develop drugs for any targets found by the study. 23andMe suggested the results will be shared, though, telling potential participants their information will be used in IBD studies beyond the initial partnership with Pfizer. Participants may also be asked to complete more surveys as the project evolves.
While the deal with Pfizer--coupled with the recent National Institutes of Health grant--goes some way to validating 23andMe's approach, the company is still constrained by the FDA warning letter. Participants in the IBD study will receive their uninterpreted genetic data and be informed about their genetic ancestry, but won't receive any of the health risk assessments that triggered the warning from FDA.