Dive into the lucrative contract between GlaxoSmithKline and 23andMe, highlighting the privacy concerns surrounding the exploitation of consumer DNA data. The expanding use of genetic data poses threats, from potential insurance discrimination to data breaches and misuse by pharmaceutical companies.
The Genetic Conspiracy: DNA Tests Are Sold to Highest Bidder
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) will pay 23andMe $20 million to extend its five-year contract to mine the company’s consumer DNA data for another year
The drugmaker is searching for hints about genes that might be at the root of disease. 23andMe will get royalties on any drugs developed
23andMe also recently launched a new DNA-sequencing service called Total Health, which sequences your entire exome, the protein-coding part of your genome, which is thought to be responsible for most disease-causing genes. The move is another step in 23andMe’s plan to transform itself into a full-fledged health care company that also treats patients
23andMe acquired a telehealth and drug-delivery startup called Lemonaid Health in 2021. Lemonaid doctors are being trained by 23andMe on how to interpret DNA results and provide tailored health advice
23andMe’s concept of “health care” is all about expanding the use of drugs by getting people on them earlier, before they even have symptoms, based solely on genetic risk factors
Do you know who has access to your genetic data? If you've used a DNA testing company like 23andMe, chances are your genetic data is in the hands of insurance companies and drug companies. It may also be in the hands of hackers. Either way, your DNA could be used against you.
GlaxoSmithKline Extends Data Mining Contract With 23andMe
As reported by Bloomberg,1 GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) will pay 23andMe $20 million to extend its five-year contract to mine the company's consumer DNA data for another year:
"The idea for drugmakers is to comb the data for hints about genetic pathways that might be at the root of disease, which could significantly speed up the long, slow process of drug development.
GSK and 23andMe have already taken one potential medication to clinical trials: a cancer drug that works to block CD96, a protein that helps modulate the body's immune responses. It entered that testing phase in four years, compared to an industry average of about seven years. Overall, the partnership between GSK and 23andMe has produced more than 50 new drug targets ...
The new agreement changes some components of the collaboration. Any discoveries GSK makes with the 23andMe data will now be solely owned by the British pharmaceutical giant, while the genetic-testing company will be eligible for royalties on some projects. In the past, the two companies pursued new drug targets jointly."
In case this wasn't obvious, YOU pay to have your DNA tested, and then 23andMe sells the mining rights of those data, and makes royalties on new drugs. Quite the profit model, having customers pay for their own exploitation. And GSK isn't the only drug company mining your data. The deal is nonexclusive, so any number of other companies may be mining your genetic data as well.
23andMe Seeks to Transform Into a Health Care Company
23andMe also recently launched a new DNA-sequencing service called Total Health, which sequences your entire exome, the protein-coding part of your genome, which is thought to be responsible for most disease-causing genes. While their basic DNA test for health and ancestry has a price tag of $229,2 this expanded test will set you back $1,188 — per year.3
The move is another step in 23andMe's plan to transform itself into a full-fledged health care company that also treats patients. With this goal in mind, 23andMe acquired a telehealth and drug-delivery startup called Lemonaid Health in 2021.4 Lemonaid doctors are reportedly being trained by 23andMe on how to interpret DNA results and provide tailored health advice.
According to Bloomberg:5
"Total Health is designed to pinpoint genes 23andMe views as 'actionable' — those that some combination of lifestyle changes and medication can affect.
The list includes the more than 80 genes the American College of Medical Genetics consider actionable, including those for cancer, cardiovascular disease, metabolic disease and neurological disorders ...
Someone who finds out they're at risk for early heart disease would want to closely monitor their cholesterol levels and consider going on cholesterol-lowering drugs as soon as those levels become unsafe, said [vice president for genomic health at 23andMe, Noura] Abul-Husn, giving an example of how the information can be used ...
The Total Health package's biannual blood tests give customers a look at more than 50 biomarkers, helping them track progress in managing risks identified by sequencing. Clinicians will provide patients with personalized risk assessments and preventive health plans, along with an annual virtual visit and ongoing messaging ..."
Genetic Predisposition — A Tactic to Increase Drug Sales
This is an excellent example of why Americans are so mired in chronic illness, and why genetic testing, as it currently stands, will do nothing to ameliorate the situation.
If you have genetic risk factors for early heart disease, the last thing you want to do is go on cholesterol-lowering drugs as they destroy heart tissue and act as mitochondrial toxins,6,7 Statins also raise your risk of diabetes and dementia.
Unfortunately, if you do an online search for "statins damage heart" or something similar, the first page or two of results will be articles "debunking" claims that they can harm your heart. This is Big Tech censorship at work, and it's only going to get worse from here. You have to dig deeper into the search results to actually find what you're looking for. Eventually, you may not find it at all.
23andMe's concept of 'health care' is all about expanding the use of drugs by getting people on them earlier, before they even have symptoms, based solely on genetic risk factors.