In addition to being a tool for diagnosing disease and selecting treatment, genomics has a role in preventive medicine, alerting physicians and patients to genetic risk factors hiding in DNA. The personal genomics company 23andMe has stepped into this role, focusing on health, disease and ancestry. The company's aim is to provide information on genetic risk, giving people the opportunity to take control of their health by making lifestyle changes and planning healthcare.
Speaking to FierceBiotech, 23andMe's CEO and co-founder Anne Wojcicki said: "I think that the healthcare that we actually want is the ability to prevent illness and know how we can live healthier. And if you are sick, you want to know how you can be best treated, what's going to be your best outcome."
23andMe's customers are invited to submit their genetic data to research projects and take part in surveys. Discoveries coming out of 23andMe have included a genetic link with the taste of cilantro (coriander), and connections with Parkinson's disease and metabolic health, back pain and even personality traits.
Ongoing research projects include investigating the genetic associations with sarcoma (bone and soft tissue cancer) and myeloproliferative neoplasms (blood and bone marrow cancer), and looking at the genetic and environmental links with Parkinson's disease. The company's research has a personal point for its founder, too. Wojcicki's husband and Google founder Sergey Brin carries the LRRK2 gene, which is associated with risk of developing Parkinson's disease.
FierceBiotech has named Wojcicki as one of its 10 Top Women in Biotech 2012.