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23andMe DNA results to be used by Glaxo for new drug research

Glaxo also invested $300 million in the genetics company as part of the deal.

Congress is a decade behind in overseeing DNA testing companies
C.M. Guerrero/Miami Herald/TNS via Getty Images

If you gave up a saliva swab to find out your ancestry, your genes might now be used in pharmaceutical research.

Drug giant GlaxoSmithKline will use the DNA results of gene-testing company 23andMe customers to research and design new drugs, according to a Wednesday post on 23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki's blog. The goal is to use 23andMe's large genetic database -- it has more than 5 million customers -- to "gather insights and discover novel drug targets driving disease progression and develop therapies for serious unmet medical needs based on those discoveries," the companies said in a release.

As part of the four-year deal, GSK is investing $300 million in 23andMe.

Customer participation is voluntary, Wojcicki said, and you can opt in or out at any time. Your DNA test results will be "de-identified, so no individual will be identifiable."

This isn't the first time 23andMe has participated in health-related activities. Last year, the US Food and Drug Administration authorized the company to tell customers if they have a genetic risk for any of 10 diseases, including Parkinson's disease, celiac disease and late-onset Alzheimer's disease.

"We are excited about this unique collaboration as we know that drug targets with genetic validation have a significantly higher chance of ultimately demonstrating benefit for patients and becoming medicines," said Dr. Hal Barron, chief scientific officer at GSK, in an email statement. "Partnering with 23andMe will help to shift our research and development organization to be 'driven by genetics,' and increase the impact GSK can have on patients."