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Drug Development from DTC Database

Through their partnership, 23andMe and GlaxoSmithKline have uncovered six potential drug targets and are poised to begin human trials of one candidate drug next year, the Wall Street Journal reports. It adds, though, that this also raises ethical questions.

GSK made a $300 million equity investment in 23andMe last year, a move that gave it access to the direct-to-consumer genetic testing firm's genotype-phenotype database and customers who opted into taking part in research, as GenomeWeb reported at the time. With this access, GSK hopes to improve and speed its drug development efforts, estimating that drugs based on genetic data are twice as likely to be successful as ones that aren't, according to the Journal.

It further notes that involvement in drug development has long been a goal of 23andMe's. But some critics tell the Journal that this use of customer's data isn't ethical, as some customers may not be aware drug companies would use their data. 23andMe says it informs customers about for-profit partnerships and that customers can withdraw their consent for that research.

Additionally, New York University's Arthur Caplan says at the Journal that it means some "people are going to wind up paying for it twice," once as genetic testing customers and then again if they need the drug.