Personal genetics company 23andMe announced January 6 a major partnership with the biotech-and-pharmaceutical company Genentech. The audacious goal of said partnerhsip: completing full genetic sequencing for thousands of Parkinson's patients. It also has the audacious pricetag of $60 million.
But that's hardly all 23andMe was up to in the last half of 2014, according to the company's business development chief.
While the company would not confirm whether it is seeking additional venture-capital funding, Emily Drabant Conley, 23andMe's director of business development, said a spate of deals--note the plural there--the company struck in the last six months of 2014 demonstrate that the business model is self-sustaining. She told Inc.: "We signed many other deals with strategic partners that are validation that our data is meaningful and useful to other companies and the broader research community as well."
The company's co-founder and CEO, Anne Wojcicki, is set to announce some of these new partnerships at the upcoming J.P. Morgan Annual Healthcare Conference in San Francisco, which starts on January 12.
So while the setbacks that hit 23andMe in late 2013--a class-action lawsuit, an FDA cease-and-desist--may have slowed consumer sales of the company's $99 saliva kits, they haven't slowed business as a whole, according to Drabant Conley. That's because most business for 23andMe comes from partnering with other companies to work with the data it has already collected.
One deal, which the company could announce as soon as January 7, couldn't be more different--within this scope of using data for further research--from the deal with Genentech.
It's with a tiny startup called Reset Therapeutics, which is based in South San Francisco and is working on researching circadian rhythms and finding therapies for the things that throw off those 24-hour biological processes. And unlike the Genentech deal, 23andMe won't just be providing Reset Therapeutics with access to data--it will collaborate with that startup to analyze data and serve as its genetics experts.
Drabat Conley says that all these deals, and working in different capacities with different companies, offer proof that "what we are doing is scalable, and has value to pharmaceutical industry."
Makes you wonder: Was 23andMe's business ever really about those spit kits?