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Shift Toward Drug R&D

23andMe has been moving into the drug research and development realm, TechCrunch reports.

It traces the direct-to-consumer genetic testing firm's shift to early 2015 when it partnered with Pfizer to give the pharmaceutical company access to its research platform and collaborate on genome-wide association studies and clinical trial recruitment. TechCrunch notes that some 80 percent of 23andMe's 2 million customers have said their data could be used in research, giving the firm a large pool to draw upon.

It points out that 23andMe then developed its own therapeutics group and brought in a former Genentech executive to head it. TechCrunch adds that 23andMe has been hiring even more people with pharma ties.

It further adds that the firm is currently raising some $200 million.

Still, TechCrunch says 23andMe might have a challenge in carving out a niche of its own, as a number of companies, including Juno Therapeutics and Novartis, are exploring pharmacogenomics.

"I don't see anything that's going to create differentiation for them over the long run," Paul DeSantis, a genomics and immuno-oncology analyst at the Gerson Lehrman Group, tells TechCrunch.