This week, 23andMe, the consumer genetic testing giant, announced that it has begun a phase 1 clinical trial on a new cancer drug. The company is well known for its at-home personal-genomics kits. These kits allow consumers to provide saliva samples, which are then sent back to 23andMe where the saliva samples are processed, and a genetic profile is created. The company then provides a personalized genetic profile back to the consumer, which includes genetic determinants such as ancestry inference and disease risk.
23andMe is widely popular, and according to the company’s website, more than 12 million people have utilized the kits. Now, the company has studied the data from its 12 million users to identify genetic risk factors for various diseases including certain types of cancer. The company has taken this data to identify a specific target for cancer therapeutics. Kenneth Hillan, Head of Therapeutics for 23andMe said, “Our approach to drug discovery is driven by human genetics, and we have an incredibly large database from which to select and advance genetically validated targets more efficiently, and with a potentially high probability of success, than traditional drug discovery methods.” It should be noted that approximately 80% of 23andMe’s customers consent to participate in research. The 23andMe scientists study aggregate, de-identified genetics of the customers alongside a database of more than 4 billion health survey answers.
For this particular clinical trial, 23andMe used their genetic database and identified a specific cellular pathway, called CD200R1. The company found that when there were alterations in this pathway, an individual’s predisposition for developing cancer significantly increased. Many other studies have shown that the CD200R1 pathway is involved in immune system regulation and modulates cancer cells. The company said that their drug, called 23ME-00610, has the capability to interact with the CD200R1 pathway, which may help to reinvigorate immune cells and possibly restore their ability to kill cancer cells.
The phase 1 study will help to determine the safety and tolerability of 23ME-00610 and allow for the preliminary assessment of anticancer activity. After the phase 1 trial, future clinical trials will study the efficacy of the drug against specific cancers and determine the overall potency of the drug against cancer cells in humans. Anne Wojcicki, CEO of 23andMe, said, “when we started our Therapeutics group, our goal was to find new medicines validated by human genetics for people with serious unmet medical needs. That’s why we’re excited to move 23ME-00610 into the clinical to potential help people with cancer who are in need of new treatment options.”