Social networking sites amass millions of health-related comments every day, as consumers rush online to gather and share information about diseases. Pharma companies swoon over the possibilities to capitalize on the social web trend, and a growing number of online patient communities and social analytics tools have emerged and cater to drugmakers' desires. Meantime, Foldit has led the way in bringing together its thousands of online gamers to tackle research challenges and solve protein structure puzzles related to serious illnesses. Talk about crowdsourcing for cures.
23andMe, the personal genomics company, has banked on growth of patient-driven research with its recent buyout of CureTogether. CureTogether provides online tools and surveys that enable patients to conduct their own studies and contribute knowledge about their conditions and meds for the benefit of others. Both CureTogether and 23andMe have generated huge amounts of data from patients, and 23andMe sees an opening to leverage the tools and capabilities of both companies to make new genetic discoveries and entice more patients to participate in research.
Involved in several large research efforts, 23andMe has built up one of the largest databases of Parkinson's disease genes, and its researchers scored a win from their work with the issuance of a patent on a gene variant that could protect certain patients with the predisposition for developing the neurodegenerative disease. Expect the company and others to transform their stockpiles of digital patient data into key findings in disease research.