A growing trend in the pharmaceutical industry is partnering with DNA collection companies such as 23andMe. GlaxoSmithKline has partnered with 23andMe and so far produced six potential drug targets, and the companies expect to start human trials on at least one candidate drug next year. For 23andMe, using genetic data for drug research “was always part of the vision,” according to Emily Drabant Conley, head of business development. Since its founding in 2006, the company has amassed a huge collection of data from the millions of people who have submitted spit samples. The company says it has analyzed more than eight million people’s DNA, making it the largest repository of human genetic information in the world.
That information is especially valuable to drugmakers because the majority of 23andMe’s customers also choose to answer questionnaires on their health. Analyzing millions of people’s genetics alongside data on their overall health provides clues on the interplay between genetics and particular ailments, creating potentially fruitful avenues for drug discovery.
DNA Collectors and their Partnerships
Others are making similar bets. Amgen Inc. bought deCODE Genetics, which started out as an initiative to gather genetic data from the Icelandic population, to help it hunt for potential drug targets. Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. is working with dozens of hospitals and research groups seeking clues to the genetic causes of disease.
GlaxoSmithKline expects the collaboration to accelerate the costly and arduous process of finding patients to join clinical trials. Typically, drugmakers rely on advertisements and doctors to spread the word about trials, and not all patients who express an interest are eligible.
One of GlaxoSmithKline and 23andMe’s targets is a rare mutation in a gene called LRRK2 that raises the risk of developing Parkinson’s. Around one in a thousand people are carriers, which would make them very difficult to find using traditional trial-recruitment tactics. 23andMe has contact details for 7,500 carriers it can invite to participate.
A targeted recruitment for the trials will reduce the time required for finding suitable candidates. What do you think about this? Is it a good idea for DNA collection companies to share your genetic profile with drug researchers?
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