23andMe inks IBD agreement with Pfizer

The partners will look at the genetic factors associated with IBD

Kelsey Kaustinen
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.—Pfizer Inc. and personal genetics company 23andMe have announced an agreement in which they will seek to enroll 10,000 people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in a research initiative aimed at exploring the genetic factors associated with the disease’s onset, progression, severity and response to treatment. No financial details for the deal were disclosed.
 
“Pfizer is committed to bringing forward new treatments for patients suffering with IBD,” Jose Carlos Gutierrez-Ramos, senior vice president of Biotherapeutics Research and Development at Pfizer, said in a press release. “By enhancing our understanding of the underlying biology of the disease, we hope to better support our clinical research activities and development programs.”
 
As part of the initiative, all the participants will receive 23andMe’s Personal Genome Service at no cost, which includes their ancestry analysis and uninterpreted raw genetic data. 23andMe will be recruiting individuals who are not among their current customers and who have been diagnosed with either Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. The research initiative is currently open only to U.S. residents, and participants will have to consent to providing a DNA sample, answering online surveys and sharing their data with researchers.
 
The two companies hope this undertaking will eventually lead to potential new or improved treatments for IBD. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are the two most common inflammatory bowel diseases. Some 1.4 million individuals in the United States alone suffer from IBD, the CDC says, and it is “one of the five most prevalent gastrointestinal disease burdens in the United States, with an overall health care cost of more than $1.7 billion.” There is no cure for IBD, which “accounts for more than 700,000 physician visits, 100,000 hospitalizations and disability in 119,000 patients” each year.
 
“We are excited to team up with Pfizer to take an innovative, consumer-centered approach to try to understand the fundamentals of inflammatory bowel disease and the variability of treatment response,” Anne Wojcicki, 23andMe CEO and co-founder, commented in a statement.
 
23andMe has undertaken similar initiatives before, though on a smaller scale. In July 2012, 23andMe announced on its blog that Janssen Healthcare Innovation, a unit of Janssen Research and Development, LLC, was sponsoring a study in patients with rheumatoid arthritis that would be conducted by 23andMe and MediGuard.org, a Quintiles subsidiary. The study will enroll 1,000 patients from MediGuard.org’s patient community who are currently taking or have previously received anti-TNF-alpha therapeutics, and 23andMe will genotype the patients, collect patient-reported outcomes data, integrate medical record data and conduct a genome-wide analysis to explore any possible links between genetics and treatment response. The same year, 23andMe launched an online study of metastatic breast cancer with Genentech in hopes of identifying what, if any, role genes might play in how a patient responds to Avastin.

Kelsey Kaustinen

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