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Biotechnology and health

Drug giant invests $300 million in 23andMe and the promise of genetics

The pharma company GlaxoSmithKline will team with 23andMe on developing new drugs, it said in a statement.

What: The $300 million investment in 23andMe shows how drug companies are betting on human genetics to decide what medicines to pursue. Hal Barron, Glaxo’s R&D boss, said the deal was part of an effort to speed up the drug search. 

The database: It’s huge and getting bigger. 23andMe has DNA data on more than five million people, which it collected by selling them ancestry and health tests.

The business model: 23andMe has been looking to parlay its gene bank into drugs for a while now. It has other partners, like Pfizer, but this investment is the largest so far.

Richard Scheller, head of 23andMe’s drug team, described his company’s efforts as “nascent.” It does not yet have a drug in human testing, for example.

Treating brains: The companies said one of their first projects would be to develop a drug for Parkinson’s disease.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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