23andMe Working on New Drug Based on Users’ Genetics

Pharmaceutical Investing

23andMe is teaming up with Spanish drugmaker Almirall to develop an antibody that treats certain inflammatory diseases using customer data.

A popular genetic data collection firm may soon offer users more than a family genealogy lesson.

Privately held personal genomics company 23andMe is teaming up with Spanish drugmaker Almirall (BME:ALM) to develop an antibody that treats certain inflammatory diseases using customer data.

As a part of the deal, Almirall will get the rights to globally commercialize the antibody, marking the first time 23andMe has licensed a self-developed drug compound.

The antibody, a large-molecule drug used to target a single protein in the body, was designed to block signals from a family of proteins known as IL-36 cytokine. These proteins have been linked to a variety of inflammatory conditions, like ulcerative colitis and lupus.

23andMe is most interested in using the compound to treat psoriasis, a condition that can cause red, scaly patches to develop on the skin.

With the rights to the antibody, Almirall will take the treatment through human clinical trials and to ultimately to the market.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Emily Drabant Conley, 23andMe’s vice president of business development, called the agreement a “seminal moment” for the company’s work in finding novel drug treatments. “We’ve now gone from database to discovery to developing a drug,” she said.

23andMe collects the genetic data of consumers who purchase sampling kits in order to learn more about their family’s background and origins.

According to the collaborating companies, over 10 million kits have been sold, with 80 percent of the participating consumers agreeing to allow their data to be used for research purposes. Based on these numbers, the companies claim to have the world’s largest set of genotypic information, paired with billions of phenotypic data points.

In a press release, Kenneth Hillan, head of therapeutics at 23andMe, said Almirall’s expertise in medical dermatology was an important consideration when selecting the partnership.

Almirall has a large drug portfolio for treating a wealth of dermatological conditions, like warts and eczema, and its drugs are sold in over 70 countries worldwide.

This isn’t the first time 23andMe has used its massive repository of genetic information to develop drugs.

The firm launched a dedicated therapeutics team in 2015 with the goal of finding ways to use collected data to advance drug development.

More recently, 23andMe partnered with British multinational pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) (NYSE:GSK,LSE:GSK) in 2018 in an exclusive four year collaboration to use its human genetic information for drug target discovery programs. The deal also came with a US$300 million equity investment from GSK.

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Securities Disclosure: I, Danielle Edwards, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

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