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NIH Provides $573,000 to 23andMe for Three Projects

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – 23andMe today said it has received $573,000 in funding from the National Institutes of Health to support three projects using the Mountain View, Calif.-based company's web-based research platform.

The first grant will go toward genome-wide associated studies aimed at discovering genetic factors affecting allergic disease risk, assessing gene-environment interactions, and treatment responses. 23andMe's research cohort, it said, includes more than 25,000 individuals with one or more allergies; more than 8,000 patients diagnosed with asthma; and more than 5,000 patients with eczema. More than 100,000 individuals will be used as controls for the study.

"This grant will enable 23andMe to effectively partner with leading experts and researchers in the genetics of asthma and allergies," David Hinds, principal scientist at 23andMe, said in a statement. "Top experts will work together and with our dataset seeking to discover genetic variants associated with allergies and asthma."

Another grant will be used by the company to investigate error rates from next-generation sequencing technologies with the goal of defining data quality metrics and technical specifications to support 23andMe's sequencing-based Personal Genome Service.

The firm will investigate the accuracy of technology used to sequence 150 exomes, including 50 new exomes being sequenced for the project, and 100 whole genomes. 23andMe Founding Scientist Brian Naughton will serve as principal investigator on the project, overseeing the sequencing of 50 exomes known to carry disease-associated variants.

The project will try to build a pipeline for NGS annotation using stringent quality control based on genotyping array and Sanger sequencing data, as well as manually curated data from human genetics literature and computational analysis of variants of unknown significance, the company said.

The third project seeks to develop tools to build out 23andMe's database. Led by principal investigator Nicholas Eriksson, it will measure and improve the reliability of self-reported data, and analyze and organize survey responses for hundreds of new traits.

The project also will extract more robust data "to demonstrate the feasibility of the web-based approach to studying a broad range of conditions," 23andMe said, adding it "will establish the foundation for development of new surveys and data collection tools to support longitudinal studies and prepare for the depth of genetic data associated with whole-genome sequencing."

Eriksson said that the research engine will enhance not only 23andMe's research outcomes but the value of research data from the company's clinical and pharmaceutical partners used to identify the causes and diagnoses of and treatments for genetically-based illnesses. The project, he said, will "accelerate the translational process of moving research discoveries to practical applications for patients."