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23andMe Awarded $1.4M NIH Grant to Build out Database, Research Engine

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – 23andMe today announced it has received a grant of almost $1.4 million from the National Institutes of Health to support the further development of the company's web-based database and research engine for genetic discovery.

The two-year grant supports four areas of development, the Mountain View, Calif.-based personal genetics firm said. 23andMe will use the grant to refine its web-based surveys to improve its ability to identify novel genetic associations. As part of that effort, 23andMe will release 15 new questionnaires and publish new discoveries.

Also, survey tools will be refined to support the collection of a broader set of phenotypic data, improving the usability of the surveys.

Additionally, the grant will go toward the use of whole-genome sequencing data and imputation with the goal of discovering rarer, more penetrant genetic associations. 23andMe will impute genotypes using data from large public and internal sequencing projects, which may lead to the detection of novel associations, including rare variants, it said.

Lastly, the grant will support the ability of external 23andMe researchers to access aggregate de-identified data from the firm's database to accelerate the pace of human genetic research. The company plans to provide early access to the database, called Research Accelerator, to a limited set of partners and will create reports and tools for them so that they can see which SNPs are associated with conditions of interest, find conditions that are associated with individual genetic variants, and view other aggregate data.

In total, the project will lead to a database containing genotypes for 40 million SNPs and information on thousands of diseases and traits for more than 400,000 individuals, 23andMe said.