GlaxoSmithKline partners with 23andMe to spur drug innovation
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GlaxoSmithKline partners with 23andMe to spur drug innovation

With the pace of technological development now increasingly exponentially (well, according to Google futurist Ray Kurzweil, anyway), it’s often hard to distinguish between science fiction and science fact. What was one just a few months ago can turn out to be the other. Case in point: personalised medicine. Yet that’s what pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has in mind for the very near future.

GlaxoSmithKline’s share price has risen by 16% so far this year

graph 3107 glaxosmithkline

SOURCE: Yahoo Finance

GSK has partnered with popular DNA analysis service 23andMe to gain access to users genetic information – potentially letting it make massive breakthroughs in the treatment for conditions with a genetic base. That includes a wide range of the most serious conditions, like breast cancer and Alzheimer’s. Now, this medicine won’t be personalised as such. That is, GSK is not going to create a set of “Fred Pills” that are tailored specifically to Fred’s DNA, offering him protection from whatever genetic weaknesses may lurk in the recesses of his being. Rather, they will use anonymous data to develop treatments that deal with specific genes, hence creating treatments that are “personal” to holder of “X” gene.

In an effort to stem the (fairly predictable, and likely justified) hysteria that the sharing of personal data with Big Pharma could cause, 23andMe released the following statement: “At this time, GSK will receive access to summary statistics from analyses 23andMe conducts so that no single individual can be identified. 23andMe implements various physical, technical, and administrative security measures to protect all 23andMe customer data, including de-identification.”

The company’s CEO and co-founder, Anne Wojcicki, added: “By working with GSK, we believe we will accelerate the development of breakthroughs. Our genetic research—powered by millions of customers who have agreed to contribute—combined with GSK’s expertise in drug discovery and development, gives us the best chance for success.”


Dominion holds GlaxoSmithKline (which is not only partnered with, but also a shareholder in 23andMe) in its Global Trends Managed Fund.

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