GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is looking to tap into the genetic data collected by DNA test developer 23andMe by investing $300 million into the company. The four-year collaboration will be co-funded by the partners and will use insights gathered from consumers’ genetic test results to identify novel drug targets and ultimately strengthen GSK’s drug discovery and development efforts.
“We are excited about this unique collaboration as we know that drug targets with genetic validation have a significantly higher chance of ultimately demonstrating benefit for patients and becoming medicines,” said Dr. Hal Barron, Chief Scientific Officer and President R&D, GSK. “Partnering with 23andMe, an organization whose vision and capabilities are transforming the understanding of how genes influence health, will help to shift our research and development organization to be ‘driven by genetics’, and increase the impact GSK can have on patients.”
Currently, 23andMe has over 5 million customers who have submitted DNA samples to the company in exchange for information on their genetic risk factors for certain diseases, including breast cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. For those who choose to take advantage of this option, 23andMe will anonymize their genetic test results and add them to a database of genetic and phenotypic information, which happens to be the largest resource of its kind in the world. According to 23andMe, 80 percent of their customers consent to having their data used for research purposes.
“This collaboration will enable us to deliver on what many customers have been asking for – cures or treatments for diseases,” said Anne Wojcicki, CEO and Co-Founder of 23andMe. “By leveraging the genetic and phenotypic information provided by consenting 23andMe customers and combining it with GSK’s incredible expertise and resources in drug discovery, we believe we can more quickly make treating and curing diseases a reality.”
The goals of the collaboration will be three-fold; to discover precision medicines through enhanced target selection, find patients that are most likely to benefit from targeted therapies and accelerate recruitment of these patients into clinical trials.
During the four-year collaboration – which could be extended to five years – 23andMe will work exclusively with GSK on drug target discovery programs. A drug discovery team comprise of both 23andMe and GSK staff members will use the DNA test developer’s database and analytical techniques to identify promising new drug targets, determine the likelihood that a medicine will be discovered to address that need, and whether the drug candidate could be developed in a clinical program.
According to the companies, 23andMe has already started research on early-stage therapeutics in multiple disease areas, which may be further developed as part of the collaboration agreement. In addition, GSK’s Parkinson’s drug candidate – an LRRK2 inhibitor – will be pushed through the pipeline with the help of 23andMe’s database of patients carrying the LRRK2 variant. This could help the pharma company recruit patients for a clinical proof of concept study.