Company | Profile
In summer 2016, researchers backed by Pfizer sent a ripple through the scientific community with the announcement that they had identified several genetic markers associated with depression, ending years of frustrated efforts to locate the genetic risks for the pervasive mental illness. Just as significant: The study was based on data from more than 120,000 people who had reported a diagnosis of depression to 23andMe, the genetics testing kit company that has become a hit with people searching for their personal history in their DNA. A study of this size “wouldn’t have been possible before,” says 23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki. “We’re hoping to enable a kind of research that has never been done before.” The Silicon Valley company has come a long way from 2013, when federal regulators ordered Wojcicki and her team to stop marketing its at-home genomics service. Today, it is working closely with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to share ancestral and select genetic-derived health reports directly to consumers—all without a doctor’s note. The vast majority of 23andMe’s 1.2 million customers, who sign up for an at-home genetic test, agree to participate in research studies and surveys. So far, they’ve answered more than 350 million survey questions. Other major studies include research with Stanford University into the genetic underpinnings of skin cancer, and a new initiative, called the African Genetics Project, to bring more diversity to medical research.