23andMe wants to use genetic data to fight ‘Long COVID’

April 27, 2021, 9:17 PM UTC

Not only can your DNA tell you about your ancestry, it could soon help researchers study the long-term effects of COVID-19.

More than a million people, about 60,000 of which have contracted COVID-19, took a survey for 23andMe to conduct research related to COVID-19, CEO Anne Wojcicki said during a discussion at Fortune’s 2021 virtual Brainstorm Health conference on Tuesday.

The study found that people with type O blood appeared to be more protected against the virus when compared to other blood types.

Now, Wojcicki wants to use the same method to study the long-term effects of COVID, she said during a discussion with Fortune editor-in-chief Clifton Leaf.

Lingering effects of COVID-19 has garnered more attention as more people recover from the initial symptoms of the virus. Last week, a large post-COVID-19 study published in the peer-reviewed journal “Nature,” revealed that people who had contracted the virus were six months later found to be at higher risk for a multitude of diseases including mental health disorders, metabolic disorders, and cardiovascular disorders. The study analyzed the health outcomes of people in the databases of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Although some have voiced concerns about volunteering their DNA to a company, Wojcicki said, overall, people want to help and contribute to research if they can.

“We have had a very transparent and a very clear process with our customers, giving people the opportunity to get their information, to delete it when they want to, and then to opt into research,” Wojcicki said.

Compared to other researchers, 23andMe has an advantage in that it doesn’t have to incur many startup costs because its customer base is constantly engaged, Wojcicki said during the conference.

Dr. Anthony Fauci said in a tweet last week that little is known about the causes of lingering COVID-19 symptoms.

“However, we do know that long-COVID can follow even mild cases of COVID-19,” Fauci tweeted from the White House COVID-19 Response Team twitter account.

The National Institutes of Health announced in February a more than $1 billion initiative to study the long-lasting effects of COVID-19 and how to treat them.

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