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23andMe Launches Therapeutics Group with Former Genentech Exec at Helm

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – 23andMe announced today that it has created a therapeutics group headed up by former Genentech executive Richard Scheller, marking the consumer genomics firm's foray into drug development.

Scheller, who was executive VP of research and early development at Genentech, retired last December from the biotech giant. In April, he will assume his post as chief science officer and head of therapeutics at 23andMe, and will be in charge of an R&D team that will use genetic information to advance new treatments for common and rare illnesses. Key to this work will be 23andMe's database of more than 850,000 genotyped customers.

"We are putting significant resources into translating genetic information into the discovery and development of new therapies for our customers and the world," said 23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki in a statement. 23andMe President Andy Page noted the company is working on recruiting a team of researchers for this new effort.

At Genentech, Scheller oversaw basic research in oncology, immunology, neuroscience, and infectious disease. At Stanford University for 19 years, he was a professor in the department of biological sciences and the department of molecular and cellular physiology. He was also an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute of Stanford University Medical Center.

Two years ago, Scheller received the prestigious Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award for his discovery efforts elucidating the molecular and regulatory mechanisms involved in the rapid release of neurotransmitters.