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23andMe teams up with Genentech to tackle Alzheimer’s

The consumer genetics firm 23andMe has launched a partnership with the biotechnology company Genentech to study the genetics of Alzheimer’s disease.

23andMe, based in Mountain View, California, has begun asking its customers 75 and older if they are interested in participating in a study “to find out how genetics might protect against Alzheimer’s disease,” according to the Pharmacogenomics Reporter (subscription required). Customer participation is voluntary, but those who opt-in can receive as much as $100.

The companies aren’t saying much else about the deal (A representative for 23AndMe passed on my query to Genentech, which was purchased by Roche in 2009. The biotech told Pharmacogenomics Reporter they weren’t yet releasing any details of the study, except to say it was on the genetics of Alzheimer’s). But it is the first collaboration between a drug company and a direct-to-consumer genomics to be made public.

Genentech is currently developing a antibody drug that targets a protein, A-beta, that makes up Alzheimer’s plaques.

23andMe is making increasing use of some of its customer’s genomes for research. Last week, for instance, scientists at the company published a study of more than 30,000 of its customers, identifying two new genetic variations linked to another neurodegenerative condition, Parkinson’s disease. Customers must consent to participate in such studies.

Since April, 23andMe has offered its customers the option of knowing their status for a gene, called APOE, linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Some versions of APOE increase a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s by as much as 15-fold.


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