Direct-to-consumer genetic testing company 23andMe announced last month that it had licensed its first in-house developed drug, a biologic, to Spanish drugmaker Almirall SA. The bispecific monoclonal antibody targets the IL-36 cytokine, which is associated with autoimmune and inflammatory diseases including lupus and Crohn’s disease. 23andMe was particularly interested in use of the drug to treat severe forms of psoriasis. Although preliminary testing has been conducted, human clinical trials have not yet commenced. The deal grants Almirall rights to develop and commercialize the antibody for worldwide use.
This is not the first foray into drug discovery for 23andMe, which boasts a therapeutics division devoted to research and drug development. In 2018, the company formed an exclusive partnership with GlaxoSmithKline to identify novel drug targets and develop therapies for unmet medical needs, one focus being Parkinson’s disease. In addition to pharma partnerships, 23andMe has built relationships with top academic institutions and non-profit medical organizations, but this recent deal with Almirall marks the first time the company has licenced a drug it developed in-house.
With its trove of genetic data, 23andMe is poised to leverage enormous insights for drug discovery. Around 10 million people worldwide have provided their DNA to the company in the form of a saliva sample, 80% of which have consented to the anonymous use of their information for drug discovery.