GlaxoSmithKline has invested $300m (£228m) in 23andMe, a Silicon Valley gene-testing company, as the UK drugs giant looks to genetics to improve growth in its pharmaceuticals division.
Announcing second-quarter results, GSK said the deal would give it exclusive access to 23andMe’s DNA database as a resource for finding new treatments. They said the deal was an important part of its new approach to research focused on the biology of the immune system and genetic evidence. The four-year agreement will combine 23andMe’s genetic database with GSK’s medical experience and commercial heft.
23andMe has more than 5m customers, more than 80% of which have agreed to allow their data to be used for research. The Google-backed US company is known for test kits that let users find out about their genetic roots with a sample of saliva. But it also has a research and development division that has come up with early stage therapies.
The companies will combine existing projects and form a joint drug discovery team to identify target diseases based on the strength of biological evidence.
Hal Barron, who joined GSK as chief scientist in January, said: “Drug targets with genetic validation have a significantly higher chance of ultimately demonstrating benefit for patients and becoming medicines. Partnering with 23andMe…will help to shift our research and development organisation to be ‘driven by genetics’, and increase the impact GSK can have on patients.”
Project costs will be split equally with room for both sides to reduce its share for a particular programme. GSK has taken a $300m equity stake in 23andMe.
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