Ancestry DNA company 23andMe has sold the rights to a drug it developed in-house using customers’ data to Spanish pharmaceutical company Almirall SA, reports Bloomberg.
The drug is being tested as a treatment for inflammatory diseases such as lupus and Crohn’s disease.
The sale marks the first time the company sold a product they made with data collected from customers. 23andMe has previously shared genetic information with pharmaceutical companies that use the data to create their own drugs. GlaxoSmithKline has exclusive rights to use data for drug development. The European drug development company purchased a $300 million stake in 2018, reports NewScientist.
“This is a seminal moment for 23andMe. We’ve now gone from database to discovery to developing a drug,” said Emily Drabant Conley, 23andMe’s vice president of business development.
23andMe conducted animal testing with the drug prior to selling it. Almirall will take it through clinical trials in human studies as soon as possible. The deal allows Almirall to develop and commercialize it for worldwide use.
The treatment is a molecule that blocks signals from small proteins that are involved with autoimmune diseases. It is targeted to be used as a treatment for psoriasis. They developed it after realizing some of their customers possessed antibodies that blocked small proteins.
"Working with Almirall, we’re pleased to be furthering 23andMe’s mission of helping people benefit from genetic insights,” said Kenneth Hillan, head of therapeutics at 23andMe. “As a leader in medical dermatology, we felt Almirall was the best company to take this program forward and ultimately develop an effective therapy for patients.”
The drug is likely the first of many. As the genetic database grows, it yields more medically useful information.
The company has sold about 10 million kits to date, according to The Verge. More than 80% of customers have agreed to allow the company to use their data for research by scientists to study the causes of diseases and treatments. Although they have agreed, they will not see any financial gain from developments. 23andMe’s terms of service state that by signing up for testing “you specifically understand that you will not receive compensation for any research or commercial products that include or result from your genetic information or self-reported information.”
Drabant Conley said 23andMe is looking to develop more drugs, but instead of licensing them out, they would like to do the clinical trials themselves.
“We had this hypothesis five years ago that we could leverage our genetic data set to develop better drugs, and now we’re seeing this come to fruition,” she said.
Since the launch of 23andMe's Therapeutics division in 2015, the company has been trying to develop and identify treatments. The company has research programs focused on oncology, respiratory and cardiovascular diseases and more.