At her South-by-Southwest Interactive keynote, 23andMe CEO and co-founder Anne Wojcicki explained that genetic information will soon be part of our everyday lives.
“Genetic information is reaching a critical mass,” Anne said.
As costs drop and as our understanding of genetics improves, the information locked in the genome will be a critical part of managing health for people. But how that information is accessed and interpreted is still being debated. Pending an on-going FDA regulatory process, 23andMe does not offer interpreted health results to customers, but Anne discussed the potential that this information has for people and for research.
Her talk “The Future of Genetics in Our Everyday Lives” was packed. One person on Twitter said it wasn’t just the longest line she’d seen in ten years at SXSW but the “longest line I’ve seen period.”
During her talk and a question and answer session that followed and was moderated by journalist Kara Swisher, Anne reiterated the company’s core principles. She co-founded the company, in part, because she wanted to transform health care. Anne said she wanted to turn the industry’s paradigm on its head by creating a business built on preventing disease instead of one that profits from it.
“Genetic information is the basis for personalized medicine and it’ll help us make better decisions,” she said.
23andMe allows people to contribute to research while learning about themselves. By attracting a large number of customers, the data from those participating in research is helping to accelerate the pace of discovery and give us more insight into disease.
In addition, by allowing people to join others and participate in research, 23andMe has the power to accelerate discoveries in the understanding of different diseases. The company is able to learn more about the genetic basis for disease, why some people are more likely to develop a disease than others and why some therapies work better on some people and not others.
With more than half a million people participating in research, the company has been able to do studies in a few months or years that would have a taken others using traditional methods several decades.