The Power of We

anne_large.jpgBy 23andMe Co-Founder Anne Wojcicki

We started 23andMe to enable individuals to get access to their genetic information. Our DNA is a fascinating aspect of who we are, and we feel strongly that anyone who wants their genetic data should be able to get access to it. But we also started 23andMe to accomplish something that could impact all of us in a much greater way–to change the current research paradigm.

The power of 23andMe is in the We. All over the world we can see examples of individuals coming together to change society. Healthcare is a shining example of it: The Susan G. Komen Foundation, Livestrong and Team in Training are just a few examples of individuals who have come together to create change.Our goal at 23andMe is to enable individuals to form communities around shared interests and to empower those communities to be actively involved with research. We call it Consumer Enabled Research. We don’t just want communities to have a voice, we want to provide a platform for them to collectively aggregate their genetic information. One of the significant bottlenecks in research is the lack of data. Researchers and physicians rarely have enough of it to really understand a disease or how to treat it. Our goal is to change that.

We believe personalized medicine could and should become mainstream in the near term. Rather than using often out-dated diagnostic criteria, we believe doctors will be able to utilize new genetics-based methods to more accurately pinpoint a problem. Before taking a drug to treat these problems, patients should know if they are at risk of having an adverse reaction, or whether they should have a lower or higher dose. Medicines are definitely not one-size-fits-all, but unfortunately that’s predominantly how they’re prescribed.

We also believe that individuals should have more involvement in the traits that are studied. Did you know it is hypothesized that red heads require less anesthesia? If you are a red head, you’d probably like to know if that is true or not! At 23andMe, individuals will have the ability to form communities, input information, and help the research world take on new questions.

Researchers are currently limited in the projects they can take on because it’s expensive to recruit individuals, and funding is limited. We believe 23andMe could change this. Individuals have the ability to help lower research costs by making their data available for the research community and by having multiple groups research the data rather than just one. We believe the democratization of data and the increase in competition could help accelerate the pace and diversity of research.

We’re at the beginning of a revolution that combines genetics and the Internet. Wikipedia, YouTube and MySpace have all changed the world by empowering individuals to share information. We believe this same phenomenon can revolutionize healthcare.

  • “Researchers are currently limited in the projects they can take on because it’s expensive to recruit individuals, and funding is limited.”

    Yeah, it is hard to recruit individuals for academic research and those individuals are usually paid for it.

    For instance, here at Tulane University, New Orleans they pay us 280 bucks for a bilateral iliac crest bone marrow aspiration but with Consumer Enabled Research and the business model of 23andMe, the logic is reverse and that’s completely new: Consumers are paying 1000 dollars for donating their DNA for academic research. I guess they are informed that by spitting into the tube they are part of a big experiment.

    One of my friend said that a closer analogy is donating free processor time but of course you don’t have to pay in that case for donating.