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CLSA Wire

Sitting Down with 23andMe and Pfizer
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23andme pfizer

Tell us about the exciting collaboration between 23andMe and Pfizer.  

23andMe and Pfizer announced a collaboration in January 2015 to study information in the 23andMe database from more than 1 million consented research participants, in the hopes of achieving breakthroughs in genetic discovery. Results from the collaboration include the largest known depression study to date, resulting in the  identification of 15 novel genetic loci thought to be linked to the risk of major depression. Pfizer and 23andMe have also collaborated by creating two disease-focused research communities, one in Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) that has reached approximately 10,000 participants and another in Lupus with approximately 5,000 participants. There are ongoing efforts to analyze the genetic and phenotypic data collected from these consented cohorts, with the hopes of developing new and effective treatments for these conditions.

This collaboration between 2 CLSA member companies is an ideal demonstration of how a smaller innovative company may collaborate with the larger strategic company to drive greater market reach and impact. How did this collaboration come about and what is the long term goal?

It’s challenging to recruit the sample sizes needed to complete these sorts of studies. 23andMe enables qualified and approved scientists outside of 23andMe the opportunity to leverage 23andMe’s unique research model while still protecting the privacy and security of 23andMe’s customers. Researchers can now fully benefit from the largest dataset of its kind, running queries in minutes across more than 1,000 different diseases, conditions and traits. With this information, researchers have the potential to identify new associations between genes and diseases and traits more quickly than ever before.

What top 3 ingredients do you feel are 23andMe’s strategic advantages for procuring this collaboration and that other young life sciences companies that strive to get to market through strategic collaborations might wish to consider?

23andMe is unique in its crowd-sourced research model, in which we treat participants as partners. The better we understand the genetic heterogeneity of complex diseases, the faster we may be able to accelerate the pace of development for potential new treatments for the right patient subpopulation. By enabling genetic research on a larger scale, we help our collaborators to speed the development of potential new therapies to benefit society at large.

What has been the biggest opportunity and challenge in navigating a collaboration with a company and global brand the size of Pfizer?

The collaboration between Pfizer and 23andMe is an opportunity for two leading research companies to collaborate and bring new advances to society. Given the size and scope of a global company like Pfizer and 23andMe’s varied areas of focus, it was an inspiring challenge to determine which areas of research were best-suited to benefit from the combined expertise of both Pfizer and 23andMe. In addition to supporting the development of potential new medicines, the collaboration has led to several seminal genome-wide association (GWAS) studies that have been published in leading journals. Working with a collaborator like Pfizer allows us to really amplify our efforts in regards to the benefit we’re able to contribute to society.