First launched in 2009, 23andMe’s Parkinson’s Research Community is now the world’s largest cohort of genotyped Parkinson’s patients. This community has powered important research from the beginning, first helping to replicate known genetic associations for Parkinson’s and then helping researchers find never before seen associations.
Like other 23andMe research initiatives, the 23andMe Parkinson’s Community is unique because it enlists people as partners in research. For those with Parkinson’s – some of whom live away from major centers of research or are physically unable to travel to those centers – 23andMe’s Research Community has allowed them to easily contribute from the comfort of their own homes.
This model has helped to accelerate the pace of research, uncovering new insights into the genetics of Parkinson’s, and offering a model for other kinds of disease research now conducted at 23andMe. In the six years since launching more than 11,000 people with Parkinson’s have joined. Their participation has made it possible for our researchers to uncover eight new genetic associations for Parkinson’s and replicated dozens of others. 23andMe researchers contributed to the largest genome-wide association study on Parkinson’s in 2014, which looked at more than seven million genetic variants in 13,000 people with Parkinson’s.
This community has enabled our researchers to make important discoveries, crowdsourced information about the most common medications within the community, and partner with other organizations doing important work on Parkinson’s. More recently 23andMe partnered with Genentech on a project to sequence 3,000 individuals within 23andMe’s Parkinson’s research community to identify new treatments for the disease. As part of this effort, our researchers are also looking at healthy family members of those with Parkinson’s. Our team is also looking to the community for advice on improving the experience.
Recently, 23andMe held the first meeting of our Parkinson’s research community advisory council. The eleven-member council of volunteers offered useful and important feedback. We also recently gathered our scientific advisory board for a meeting and hired a post-doctoral student who will work solely on Parkinson’s research community projects. We know that in the coming months and years we will be able to leverage this one-of-a-kind community to learn more help in the search for better treatments for the disease.