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23andMe just used your genetic data to create a drug for psoriasis

| | January 27, 2020
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Image: 23andMe
This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

Of the genetic testing company’s more than 10 million users, a vast majority have consented to have their DNA used in 23andMe’s research endeavors, which includes development of pharmaceuticals. If you’re one of these customers, you may not remember giving the company permission to conduct research with your saliva sample. Or maybe you didn’t read the fine print (23andMe has a separate consent process for research purposes).

If that’s you, turns out you’ve helped create a new drug meant to treat psoriasis, an autoimmune disease that causes red and scaly patches of skin. According to Bloomberg, 23andMe has sold the rights to that drug to the Spanish pharmaceutical company Almirall.

Related article:  Could your genes ‘nudge’ you towards risky behavior?

Still, there’s a caveat even if you didn’t give the company your permission to use your DNA in aggregate: 23andMe says on its website that regardless of your consent status, the company may still include your data in any aggregate data that is disclosed to “third-party research partners” who will not publish that information publicly, such as in a scientific journal. In other words, researchers working with 23andMe can still see your data as part of an aggregate, anonymized dataset. That means it’s nearly impossible to tell exactly what all is being done with your genetic information.

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