Genetic test maker 23andMe launches drug R&D effort

Google-backed genetic testing company 23andMe is launching its own drug development unit, betting that it can translate its database of customer DNA information into novel medicines.

The Silicon Valley-based company announced Thursday that it hired Richard Scheller, a former Genentech executive, to become its chief scientist and lead the company’s research and development efforts.

23andMe is best known for its saliva-based test kits, which offer users the chance to peek into their genetic code for clues about their ancestral past. Much the way social media websites sell advertisers access to their user networks, 23andMe licenses the raw data from its DNA database to researchers. It has more than 20 partnerships with drug companies, as well as government and academic researchers.

Now 23andMe plans to pursue its own drug R&D efforts.

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