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23andMe's Data Deal

Genentech plans to sequence 3,000 people from 23andMe's Parkinson's disease community to search for drug targets for the disease, as GenomeWeb reports.

Forbes' Matthew Herper notes that the deal may garner up to $60 million for 23andMe, which Technology Review's Antonio Regalado calculates out to be $20,000 per person.

Herper adds that this deal with Genentech is the first of 10 that 23andMe says it has signed with pharmaceutical and biotech companies.

"I think that this illustrates how pharma companies are interested in the fact that we have a massive amount of information," Anne Wojcicki, 23andMe co-founder and chief executive, tells Herper. "We have a very engaged consumer population, and these people want to participate in research. And we can do things much faster and more efficiently than any other research means in the world."

At Tech Review, Regalado says this deal is "also a reminder that 23andMe's real business isn't selling $99 tests, but selling access to data that it has managed to crowdsource as cleverly as Facebook has gathered other personal details. "

Some 600,000 of the company's 820,000 or so customers agreed to donate their data to research and have, as part of that, consented for 23andMe to sequence their genomes and share their anonymous, pooled health data, Herper says.

But Genentech is interested in individual, though anonymous data, 23andMe says it will be reaching out to its customers to gather additional consent for the project.

This deal, GenomeWeb notes, occurs in the midst of the US Food and Drug Administration's examination of 23andMe for marketing genetic testing directly to consumers. The company is currently only offering its ancestry test or raw data in the US.

This, Herper adds, is slowing additions to its customer database.

"For 23andMe, the investment [from Genentech] is a lifeline," the Verge's James Vincent says.

Soon though, Herper says the company will have to expand its database to stay relevant. And recently, it has been looking toward Canada and the UK, as GenomeWeb has reported.

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