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Going Well

With a million customers and US Food and Drug Administration approval for a health-related test, 23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki tells Marketplace that the genetics business is going well.

A customer base of that size, she says, is enough to create a disruption as the customers — who she says are are empowered by their genetic information and what it says about themselves, their ancestry, and their health —tell their family and friends.

"I believe that genetic information will be the foundation for the next way we deliver health care," Wojcicki says.

Marketplace's Kai Ryssdal notes that in late 2013, FDA told 23andMe to stop marketing its health-related test, and he asks whether she and her company were a little cocky at launch.

Wojcicki responds that rather than being cocky, the company instead had viewed itself as an information company and that the FDA warning letter came as a surprise.

"I really believe that we're trying to do things that democratize health care for people," she says, adding that they now understand that it's a regulated environment with certain steps that have to be followed.

The company has also recently entered into partnerships with pharma companies, Ryssdal notes. Wojcicki tells him the company views this move as being "in the best interest of the consumer in order to make meaningful discoveries from the data." Still, she adds that if customers don't like what 23andMe decides to do, they can delete their account and data at any time and not participate in the research.

"We see our consumers as our primary customer and as our partner, and so we have to do the research that reflects the interest of our customers," she adds.

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