Google founder gambles on genetic research project

23andMe, the social networking group for the genetically linked, is rolling out a new experiment in genetics. The company wants to test the saliva of 10,000 Parkinson's patients for the nominal sum of $25 so it can hunt for the genetic causes and predictive flags for the neurological disease.

The start-up was co-founded by Ann Wojcicki (photo), who is married to Google co-founder Sergey Brin. Brin was born with a genetic variant that indicates he is at high risk of developing Parkinson's later in life. Now he has the chance to help find a cure for what may eventually hurt him. And he's willing to make a multimillion-dollar commitment to fund the study, which he will also participate in.

The announcement, though, was met with a significant amount of skepticism. In order to be worthwhile, the experiment will need to reveal the common genetic links among subgroups of Parkinson's patients. That's a tricky, complex approach that would challenge the most technologically savvy scientists. But it's a chance to see if 23andMe can live up to its own hype and advance a new company serving people who are looking for genetic insights into their health and longevity.

If successful, 23andMe will also have helped break ground on a new, more efficient approach to genetic research. "There's a huge opportunity for us if we can make research more efficient," Wojcicki said in an interview.

- read the report from the New York Times

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