Genetic data has a lot of medical implications for everyone. Genes can explain your current state of health, your ancestry, even what sorts of diseases you may be more susceptible to.
The DNA service company 23andMe wants to collect all of that valuable data and use it to tell customers more about their health.
“I really believe that we’re trying to do things that democratize health care for people,” says Anne Wojcicki, 23andMe CEO.
For $100 and a bit of saliva, anyone can put their information on file with 23andMe and potentially be open to any number of medical advances and studies.
“What other health care product of this level of complexity can you say you can get for $100?” Wojcicki says.
Wojcicki believes that the health care system in the U.S. is fundamentally broken.
“If you look at the history of drug discovery, and you look at the pharma lobbying group, every single year for the last couple decades it has become more inefficient and harder and harder to develop new therapies,” she says.
“The reason we started this company is because we believe that genetic information will be the foundation for the next way we deliver health care.”
Even though 23andMe is rapidly becoming a storehouse for genetic information, Wojcicki is cognizant of the fear potential clients may have in all of their genomes being on file.
“We do do a lot of partnerships with pharma companies because we feel like that’s in the best interest of the consumer in order to make meaningful discoveries from the data.”
Even though she and the company take that responsibility seriously, 23andMe still gives patients the option to leave the service at any time and subsequently have all of their information deleted. And although there are some risks in a business based around people’s personal bodily information, Wojcicki remains faithful in the benefits of people being made aware of their genetic information.
“If we can actually decrease the failure rate from nine out of 10 drugs failing in clinical trials and instead have seven out of 10 instead failing, that is a major victory for drug discovery and for people having better therapy,” she says.