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Jul 29, 2014

23andMe Scores NIH Grant to Pump Up Genetic Discovery Database

  • The NIH has given 23andMe a $1,367,504 grant for a two-year project to support further development of the personal genetics firm's web-based database and research engine for genetic discovery. The company ultimately hopes that the project will beget a database containing genotypes for 40 million SNPs and information on thousands of diseases and traits for over 400,000 people.

    23andMe says the grant will allow the firm to refine its survey questions to better find novel genetic associations, and support improvements to survey infrastructure and the creation of new tools for phenotypic data collection. The company also will use the funds to enable discovery of rare variants associated with disease using whole-genome sequence data and imputation. By imputing genotypes using data from large public and internal sequencing projects, the firm says it plans to provide increased power to detect novel associations.

    Finally, the company will also use the funds in its efforts to collaborate with academic and commercial partners to test and refine the Research Accelerator, which the company says provides access to aggregate de-identified genotype and phenotype data from customers participating in 23andMe’s research program. The firm says it will give a limited set of partners early access to the Research Accelerator and will create reports and tools so that partners will be able to see which single nucleotide polymorphisms are associated with conditions of interest, find conditions associated with variants in individual genes, and view other data, all while protecting individual-level information.

    “This grant from the NIH recognizes the ability of 23andMe to create a unique, web-based platform that engages consumers and enables researchers from around the world to make genetic discoveries," Anne Wojcicki, the firm's co-founder and CEO, said in a statement. 

    23andMe, along with the Michael J. Fox Foundation, the U.S. Department of Defense, and others, recently collaborated with the NIH in a study, published in Nature Genetics on July 27, that led to the discovery of 24 genetic risk factors involved in Parkinson’s disease including six that had not previously been identified.


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