23andMe Reaches Parkinson’s Research Goal

We’re excited to announce that the 23andMe Parkinson’s Research Community has exceeded its goal, enrolling more than 10,000 people with the disease and creating the largest cohort of genotyped people with Parkinson’s in the world.

Reaching this milestone offers scientists an incredible opportunity to better understand the causes and potential treatments for this neurodegenerative disease.  While we’ve already done important Parkinson’s research, it is what we hope to do in the future that is most exciting for researchers here at 23andMe.

“Having reached this important milestone, the next step for us is to focus on the data that we have collected,” said 23andMe’s Parkinson’s Research Manager Emily Drabant, PhD.  “This is a tremendously rich dataset and we want to learn as much as we can from it.”

23andMe started this initiative four years ago, as a way to accelerate research into Parkinson’s, and we’ve already shown how our model can do just that by quickly replicating known genetic associations with Parkinson’s and discovering previously unknown genetic associations with the disease.

Now that we’ve reach this enrollment goal, we can delve into the data to better understand such things as:

The relationship between environmental and genetic factors in the development of Parkinson’s.
How those with Parkinson’s react differently to treatment so that treatments my be better individually targeted.
And, by continuing to engage with our community members — who, through their courage in the face of this difficult illness, inspire us —  we can better understand the disease and its progression.

Our research model offers great potential for the study of many different diseases, but it is ideally suited for studying diseases like Parkinson’s in which patients are limited by their illness.

“The symptoms of Parkinson’s often interfere with motor skills and affect each individual differently, so a traditional approach to research that requires individuals to physically go to a clinical research center can be a huge barrier to participation and data collection,” Dr. Drabant said.  “23andMe provides a unique opportunity for individuals to participate in research at their own convenience. By providing a saliva sample and answering questions online in the comfort of their own homes, individuals are enabling researchers to advance our understanding of how genes and environmental factors may inform the development and progression of Parkinson’s disease.”

And it is the people who are part of our Parkinson’s Research Community, who inspire us in our work with their courage in the face of this difficult illness. We could not have done any of this without each of the thousands of people who have joined the community and shared their data to advance our understanding of Parkinson’s.  We want to thank our Parkinson’s Research Community members for coming together and making this research possible.

We also want to thank our partners and friends at the Michael J. Fox Foundation, The Parkinson’s Institute, National Parkinson’s Foundation, Cleveland Clinic, Cure Parkinson’s Trust, Parkinson’s Association of San Diego, Northwest Parkinson’s Foundation, Parkinson’s UK, Caring.com, and Parkinson’s Association of Ireland. These important institutions have offered tremendous support to this research as well as helping us spread the word and recruit interested individuals into this research community.

It has been quite a journey over the last four years – one that has taken us to Washington DC to raise awareness for PD research, to Muhammad Ali’s 70th birthday celebration to spread the word, to numerous PD patient conferences, and led to some great press for the cause, including articles on NPR, Bloomberg, BioCentrury TV and Wired.

We’re excited by the road ahead. We will continue to welcome people to participate in our research. While initially a donation from the Brin-Wojcicki Foundation was meant to cover the costs for just the first 10,000 people with Parkinson’s to enroll, the foundation’s continued generosity will allow us to continue to make it free for anyone with Parkinson’s to join 23andMe and be part of this research initiative.

We know that the possibilities for discovery continue to grow, and, with the continued partnership of our engaged Parkinson’s Research Community, we will move ever closer to a cure.