As consumer interest and public fascination with at-home DNA tests begins to wane, 23andMe announced that it will lay off about 100 of its staff, according to a report from CNBC.
CEO Anne Wojcicki told the network the market turn, first seen last summer, comes as a surprise—following a years-long boom in people’s curiosity about their personal genetic makeup, and how it may be linked to health, wellness and family history.
But now, concerns about DNA privacy risks and a potential future recession may be putting a damper on sales, Wojcicki hypothesized, in addition to a lack of repeat customers in the space.
She described how personal privacy is a priority for the company, and pointed to the recent hiring of a new chief security officer this month. “I think the tech world needs to own this better communicate privacy standards to build trust,” Wojcicki told CNBC. “I want to jump in and really own it.”
The layoffs will affect about 14% of the company’s workforce, including operations teams tasked with growing the business and others, the report said. 23andMe also plans to cut back on clinical studies over the next few months, while honing its direct-to-consumer efforts and work in therapeutics.
Earlier this month, 23andMe licensed out a bispecific monoclonal antibody to the Spanish dermatology drugmaker Almirall. The therapy is designed to block all three members of the IL-36 cytokine subfamily, associated with multiple inflammatory conditions. Financial terms were not disclosed.
The news also comes just days after its Big Pharma benefactor and research partner GlaxoSmithKline announced plans to launch a new clinical trial this year to evaluate the companies’ first major drug target. Though details about the collaboration are sparse, it appears to be part of a broad push to partially align GSK’s R&D with tech firms and partnerships.
In 2018, GSK pledged a $300 million investment in 23andMe, as part of a four-year pact to fold the DNA testing firm’s phenotypic and genotypic data into its preclinical and early-stage programs. In addition, the drugmaker said it would assist 23andMe with its therapeutics research.