Google-backed genetic-testing company 23andMe is launching its own drug development unit, and bringing on former Genentech executive to become its chief scientist and lead the company’s research and development efforts.
23andMe has collected genetic information from more than 850,000 customers worldwide from its $99 DNA spit test and more than 80 percent of those customers have consented to participate in research. The company has more than 20 partnerships with drug companies, including Pfizer and Roche, as well as with government and academic researchers. Now, the company is transforming to a biotech company, and hopes that its database of genetic information will help reveal mechanisms and potential drug targets for various diseases.
23andMe has hired Richard Scheller, PhD, as chief science officer and head of therapeutics to lead the newly created therapeutics group. Dr. Scheller retired in December from a distinguished 14 year career as an executive at Genentech where he was the executive vice president of research and early development. He will join 23andMe at the beginning of April 2015 to help build a dedicated research and development team for the group, which aims to use human genetic data as the starting point for identifying new drugs for both common and rare diseases.
“With Dr. Scheller joining the team, we are putting significant resources into translating genetic information into the discovery and development of new therapies for our customers around the world,” said Anne Wojcicki, 23andMe CEO and Co-Founder. “This is a major step forward to realizing our mission to help people benefit from the human genome.”
The therapeutics group, that Scheller will lead, will use 23andMe’s research platform, which is the world’s largest consented, re-contactable database. The genetic information obtained provides the company with a significant step forward to better understanding the biological mechanisms of disease and accelerating the discovery of novel therapies through human genetics.
“I have dedicated my life to research aimed at fulfilling unmet needs for very sick people,” said Dr. Scheller. “I believe that human genetics has a very important role to play in finding new treatments for disease. I am excited about the potential for what may be possible through 23andMe’s database. It is unlike any other.”
In addition to Dr. Scheller, 23andMe is actively recruiting a team of leading scientists and researchers.
Last updated: 3/12/15; 10:30am EST