23andMine: CEO Anne Wojcicki aims to take genetics company private

23andMe’s co-founder and CEO Anne Wojcicki has put in motion a plan to take the company private after the stock value of the DNA testing provider has collapsed by more than 97% since its multibillion-dollar market debut just three years ago.

According to the company, its board of directors was already exploring various strategic alternatives for the future of the business, including forming a special committee in late March. It said the committee would review the proposal when an offer is officially made.

Currently, Wojcicki, who also sits as chair of the board, holds 49.99% of the voting power over the company—control she said she plans to use to dramatically limit that list of potential alternatives to one: hers. According to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, Wojcicki also said she aims to gather potential partners and financing sources to help make the deal.

The news was first reported by The Wall Street Journal, which noted that as 23andMe’s stock closed Wednesday afternoon at a new low of 36 cents per share, its market capitalization of under $200 million would amount to less than its cash on hand last quarter, putting the company’s enterprise value in the negative.

23andMe went public in early 2021 through a $3.5 billion special purpose acquisition company deal led by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group that was slated to deliver $984 million to its coffers. At the time, Branson and Wojcicki each chipped in $25 million to the company, through a $250 million round of private investments in its public equity, also known as PIPE.

But its share price has gone down the tubes in the time since, falling from a high of just over $16. Last November, the company received a delisting notice from the Nasdaq giving it six months to get out of penny-stock territory, with the deadline set for May 8.

23andMe has worked to diversify its DNA business over the years, expanding from ancestry exploration to testing for health and lifestyle factors. The company has obtained FDA clearances for direct-to-consumer tests for cancer risks, such as to identify genetic biomarkers linked to prostate cancer, for example, as well as BRCA mutations tied to breast and ovarian tumors. It has also looked to leverage its massive trove of DNA data for clinical research and in the development of its own immuno-oncology and inflammation therapies.