Blog Post

Some Details About Google Related Genome Start-up, 23andMe

Did you know that Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone can store your entire genome? I learnt this earlier today when reading through Matthew Herper’s piece on 23andMe over on

23andMe is a company co-founded by Anne Wojcicki, wife of Google co-founder Sergey Brin. The company wants to help bring genome information to the consumers and recently raised $3.9 million from Google and other investors. A big fracas broke out when the company announced the funding, primarily because the money raised from investors including Google (GOOG) and Genentech (DNA) was going to help pay back $2.6 million loan Brin made to 23andMe.

23andMe has not revealed the details of how it is going to make it all work .’s Herper met with Jay Flatley, chief executive of biotech Illumina (ILMN), a gene tool maker, who spilled the beans. Here is how it works.

1. You will send 23andMe a sample. It could be something as tiny as a Q-Tip rubbed on the inside of your cheek. You have seen it done on CSI Miami.
2. Mail this to 23andMe and it end up at Illumina which will genotype it.
3. Illumina will send back the information (DNA variations called single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs)) back to 23andMe.
4. The information is going to be available via a password protected website.
5. The 23andMe will start showing off its offering in about two months.

Related: Google, Sergey and 23andMe and why it all makes sense.

12 Responses to “Some Details About Google Related Genome Start-up, 23andMe”

  1. I wonder how they are going to manage the load of such requests coming in?

    I wonder whether it is paid or free service?

    I also wonder what they are going to do with this information later on… So they collected 500,000 reports – which they are going to keep behind closed password-protected doors? Having Google mentality (and Google direct interest in the company), should they make all this information searchable and public? How are they going to deal with privacy issues then?

    Imagine a young couple dating and one of them checking the site for other’s half genetical retardation diseases… That would make relationship so much fun!

  2. I am sort of getting belatedly informed on the controversial deal. Disclosure is one thing, transparency is another. Why is there no transparency about this deal? Surely a why statement was in order, given the peculiar details. Conflicts of interest are not avoided by disclosures, but by transparency…and this does not require details of the business. A mere mention of the strategic aim should be enough. Has that been done? I would even argue that by “disclosing” the Google pedigree of the deal, a higher valuation may be rigged up from investors in a Series B/Second round or whatever you call it in the Valley! In which case, disclosure in this case in itself constitutes a dubious act.

  3. 23andme is not the only company is this space. Navigenics has been far less cagey about what they are going to be offering. Their offerings are llong the same lines with genotyping services/instrumentation coming from Affymetrix.

    Just genotyping individuals is just the start. It will be very interesting to see how this field ends up being regulated.