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Genetics company 23andMe, which uses machine learning algorithms for human genome analysis, has entered into a four year collaboration with pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline. They will now share their 5 million client genetic data with GSK to advance research into treatments of diseases. This collaboration will be used to identify novel drug targets, tackle new subsets of disease and enable rapid progression of clinical programs. The 12 years old firm has already published more than 100 scientific papers based on its customers’ data.

All activities within the collaboration will initially be co-funded, with either company having certain rights to reduce its funding share. “The goal of the collaboration is to gather insights and discover novel drug targets driving disease progression and develop therapies,” GlaxoSmithKline said in a press release. GSK is also reported to have invested $300 million in 23andMe.

During the four year collaboration GSK will use 23andMe’s database and statistical analytics for drug target discovery. This collaboration will be used to design GSK’s LRRK2 inhibitor, which is in development for the potential treatment for Parkinson’s disease.

23andMe’s database of consented customers who have a LRRK2 variant status will be used to accelerate the progress of this programme. Together, GSK and 23andMe will target and recruit patients with defined LRRK2 mutations in order to reach clinical proof of concept.

23andMe have made it quite clear that participating in this program is voluntary and requires clients to affirmatively consent to participate. However not everyone is clear of how this would work. First, the company has specified that any research involving customer data that has already been performed or published prior to receipt of withdrawal request will not be reversed. This may have a negative effect as people are generally not aware of all the privacy policies and generally don’t read the Terms of Service.

Moreover, as Peter Pitts, president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest, notes, “If a person’s DNA is used in research, that person should be compensated. Customers shouldn’t be paying for the privilege of 23andMe working with a for-profit company in a for-profit research project.

Both the companies have sworn to provide maximum data protection for their employees. In a blog post, they note, “The continued protection of customers’ data and privacy is the highest priority for both GSK and 23andMe. Both companies have stringent security protections in place when it comes to collecting, storing and transferring information about research participants.

You can read more about the news, on a blog by 23andMe founder, Anne Wojcicki.

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Content Marketing Editor at Packt Hub. I blog about new and upcoming tech trends ranging from Data science, Web development, Programming, Cloud & Networking, IoT, Security and Game development.


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