All of that genetic material that 23andMe has been collecting is finally being used for commercial drug development -- specifically dermatological drugs.
The company inked an agreement with Spanish pharmaceutical developer Almirall, which concentrates on medical dermatology treatments, for the development of dermatological treatments based on an antibody developed by 23andMe.
The monoclonal antibodies that 23andMe has identified from research it conducted on the genetic material of its customers block small proteins known as IL-36 cytokines, which are linked to skin conditions including psoriasis and lupus, and other inflammatory conditions like ulcerative colitis, inflammatory bowel disease, and Crohn's disease.
As part of the agreement (whose financial terms were undisclosed), Almirall secured the rights to develop and commercialize the antibody for use in treatments worldwide.
Roughly 80% of the 10 million people who have signed up for the 23andMe service have consented to have their genetic material used for drug discovery, according to the company. And 23andMe claims that it has the largest set of genotypic information paired with phenotypic data points contributed by customers. Basically... it's got a lot of genetic material from wealthy folks around the world.
"Working with Almirall, we're pleased to be furthering 23andMe's mission of helping people benefit from genetic insights," said Kenneth Hillan, M.B., Ch.B., Head of Therapeutics at 23andMe, in a statement. "As a leader in medical dermatology, we felt Almirall was the best company to take this program forward and ultimately develop an effective therapy for patients."
Almirall said it will continue to develop the antibody all the way through clinical trials in humans and onto the market.
The deal with Amirall marks the first successful licensing agreement between 23andMe and a drug developer and is a huge step forward for the company in its efforts to prove that it can make money beyond simply selling genealogical information to people willing to part with their entire biological identity to get it.