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23andMe lays off 100, with CEO “surprised” at market turn

The layoffs impact 14% of the genetic testing company’s staff.

23andMe lays off 100, with CEO “surprised” at market turn
Anne Wojcicki co-founder and CEO of 23andMe. [Photo: John Shearer/Getty Images]

Consumer genetic testing company 23andMe is laying off 100 people (or 14% of its staff) due to declining sales, reports CNBC.

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Launched in 2006, 23andMe’s reputation was initially viewed as a fun tool for learning fun facts about your genetic makeup. But over the years, the company has expanded its ambitions, informing customers about their likelihood to contract diseases like Parkinson’s as a way of helping patients make pre-emptive decisions regarding treatment. Today the company has more than 10 million customers, the vast majority of whom have agreed to participate in genetic research. It has also received some $790 million in venture funding and has an exclusive deal with GlaxoSmithKline to develop drugs based off its pool of data.

In October, Wojcicki was bullish on the company’s ability to sell more tests. “Diseases are never going away,” she told a room of reporters at a breakfast press conference. But even then she was looking less at tests and more at ways in which the company could expand into services that augment it’s signature spit-in-a-tube test. In September, it announced a clinical trial business in partnership with Trialspark. “What are the additional types of products we might want to have that help people benefit from actually taking all the genetic information they have and what are those life style and how can they change that behavior to prevent any of those conditions?,” she asked the crowd. She didn’t yet have the answers.

And she might not need them just yet. Last week, 23andMe became the first of the consumer genetic companies to sell a therapeutic.

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About the author

Ruth Reader is a writer for Fast Company. She covers the intersection of health and technology.

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