Genetics firm plans research unit to find disease cures

Personal genetics firm 23andMe is planning to use its database of health information to research possible cures for a range of diseases. Its new research group has appointed a head and will begin recruiting scientists next month. They will use the genetic data to help identify new therapies for common and rare diseases.
Around 80% of 23andMe’s 875,000 customers have agreed that it can use their health data for medical research. It will eventually share its research with drug companies, although the details are yet to be worked out. The company already has deals with 14 pharmaceutical companies, allowing them to trawl its database for specific health information.
It hopes that mutations and other genetic information in the database will reveal potential drug targets for a range of diseases. Healthy carriers of mutated genes may offer insights into why some people do not develop disease. Dr Richard Scheller, former vice-president of research at biotechnology firm Genentech, will head up the new group.
He said: "I have dedicated my life to research aimed at fulfilling unmet needs for very sick people. I believe that human genetics has a very important role to play in finding new treatments for disease. I am excited about the potential for what may be possible through 23andMe’s database. It is unlike any other."