Drugs from DNA tailored to individual people could soon be made from their saliva, according to the proposed business venture of one genetics company.
23andMe, a genomics and biotechnology company based in California, already deal with their clients’ DNA on a daily basis, offering services to discover any inherited risk factors, as well as information on how they may respond to certain medications. However, the company are now looking to harness their wealth of data in an attempt to produce drugs from the genetic information donated from their clients.
In order to carry out the research, 23andMe recently announced the creation of a new therapeutics group, with the mission to find and develop drugs from the world’s largest database of human genetic material. A research and development team now needs to be built from scratch, with Richard Scheller, formerly of Genentech, already on board to lead the development. Scheller and his team will use labs-for-hire or contract research organisations to begin with, in order to get the service off the ground while their own labs are constructed.
Clients can already sign up to the research when they sign up to the company to purchase the normal DNA test kits. “When you choose to participate in 23andMe research, your data could be used to fuel a variety of genetic studies with our internal research team or with one of our many collaborators at research universities or pharmaceutical companies. We are changing the way the world does research by allowing everyone to participate in the research – online, at home, in the office. Day or night,” claims the 23andMe website. Participants are asked to answer questions on a number of topics, ranging from skin pigmentation to family health history, and are given the option to opt out of the research at any point.
The team behind the research will also be looking for specific traits within the DNA. For example, they’ll focus on whether patients who develop a certain disease tend to have specific hallmark genetic changes in their DNA. Delving into the background of the genomes of people who have survived cancer or succumbed early to it may produce valuable information about what makes diseases more or less aggressive.
Since beginning in 2006, 23andMe has sequenced DNA for more than 850,000 people worldwide. Of those who sent in samples and were eligible, 80% have agreed to allow their genetic information to be used for research purposes.
“We believe DNA can provide insight into why some people are more likely to get a disease than others. We want to understand, through genetics, why people respond differently to disease treatment options and drugs.”
Although other services from 23andMe are available to UK residents, they cannot currently participate in the drug research.