23andMe Raises Another $250 Million—and Wants to Use Your Genetic Data to Make Drugs

September 12, 2017, 4:46 PM UTC

Silicon Valley startup (and 2017 Fortune Change the World list honoree) 23andMe is on a mission to use your genetic information to conduct unparalleled, personalized health research—including drug development. And it just got another $250 million jolt to help make it happen.

The genetic testing firm announced Tuesday that it had raised $250 million in a round led by investing powerhouse Sequoia Capital, a new investor for 23andMe. That brings the company’s total financing up to $491 million, and a reported valuation of about $1.75 billion (23andMe declined to comment on its valuation). Other investors in previous funding rounds include Fidelity and Google parent Alphabet’s GV arm; Sequoia partner Roelof Botha will join the company’s board.

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Earlier this year, 23andMe won a landmark Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval, becoming the first company allowed to sell genetic tests and accompanying health risk reports for conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease directly to consumers without a prescription. It previously sold its ancestry services and several other specially-cleared tests. Cofounder and CEO Anne Wojcicki has argued that her company is one of personal health empowerment; in fact, she says, a massive chunk of the two million-plus 23andMe customers around the globe have made lifestyle adjustments based on information gleaned from their tests.

But the firm’s ultimate ambitions go far beyond providing consumers with medical data. Customers are allowed to opt in to the firm’s research programs, which uses anonymized data to identify genetic health trends and, one day, could even help produce targeted new drugs for various diseases, according to 23andMe. The company says the vast majority of consumers opt in.

“The scale of the data—millions of customers and growing—and the unique combination of genotypic and phenotypic information provides an unrivaled research platform for insights into human health,” said Sequoia’s Botha in a statement.

For instance, 23andMe has joined forces with pharmaceutical company Lundbeck and the think tank the Milken Institute to study the genetic underpinnings of psychiatric diseases like bipolar disorder and depression. “23andMe’s research platform is currently the world’s largest consented, re-contactable database for genetic research,” says the company. “This data will lead to a better understanding of the biological mechanisms of disease, and accelerate the discovery of novel treatments through human genetics.”

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