For researchers, mobile app-based studies offer an opportunity to get to scale quickly and inexpensively. And now, in a potential boon for the nascent field of genomics, academic institutions can incorporate a snapshot of their participants’ genetic information into their iPhone-based studies.
23andMe, the direct-to-consumer genetics company, has developed a new “module” for Apple’s ResearchKit, its service for researchers to launch iPhone-based studies. What this means is that participants in these studies can now choose to upload their results from a 23andMe kit.
23andMe is rolling out the integration with two apps: Mount Sinai Asthma Health, which is designed to help asthma patients avoid triggers and take their medication, and Stanford Medicine’s MyHeart Counts, a smartphone-based cardiovascular research study with 50,000 participants.
For most relatively healthy people, genetics doesn’t play a big role in their daily lives. But the hope for this partnership is to find new insights and links between genetics, lifestyle, and disease. 23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki said in a statement that incorporating genetics into a service like ResearchKit will “accelerate insights into illness and disease even further.”
For 23andMe, it’s an opportunity to reach new customers. The company currently offers a $199 genetic test in exchange for a saliva sample. Patients ultimately receive a report with information about their “carrier status”, meaning whether they’re a carrier for a disease such as cystic fibrosis, as well as genealogical information. Before getting shut down by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in November of 2013, it tested people for common health and disease risks, including Parkinson’s disease. CEO Wojcicki recently told Fast Company that she would not rest until the company resumed sales of its full tests.
For 23andMe, the integration with ResearchKit also offers an opportunity to reach those with chronic and genetically inherited diseases. Researchers, such as those at Mount Sinai, can opt to pay to send the participants in the trial a 23andMe kit. This might prove particularly useful to 23andMe as it branches into the potentially lucrative field of drug discovery and development.