Lori Miller, who comments frequently here on the blog, sent me links to a couple of interesting posts she wrote about 23andMe. Here’s a quote from the first one:
GlaxoSmithKline, one of the world’s largest drug makers, recently bought a $300 million stake in 23 and Me, a genetic testing company. The two also signed an agreement giving GlaxoSmithKline exclusive rights to customer data. The data is de-identified, aggregate customer information.
Yikes. Now why would a pharmaceutical giant want to own a big piece of 23andMe? I’d like to believe them that the data is de-identified, but my paranoid side can’t help but wonder: wouldn’t GlaxoSmithKline just loooove to know whose genes make them potential customers for the company’s drugs?
Moving on to the second post:
23andMe, the genetic testing company, sent me a new report saying I have a 64% chance of developing diabetes based on my genetics. Having at least three diabetic grandparents and hypoglycemia from the time I was a kid, I already figured I was a case of diabetes waiting to happen if I didn’t take precautions.
If I followed 23andMe’s crappy advice, I’d probably become one of those cases. GlaxoSmithKline, maker of the diabetes drug Avandia, owns a $300 million share of 23andMe. Some of 23andMe’s advice for avoiding diabetes is good–avoid added sugars, refined flour and potatoes. Thanks to the work of journalists, bloggers, podcasters, and a few renegade doctors and researchers who attacked the low-fat orthodoxy, they have to throw that in now to avoid losing all credibility. But their advice on what to eat instead isn’t very helpful for filling you up and keeping you from snacking on foods with flour and sugar:
Hmmm. I sent my DNA sample to 23andMe last year because Chareva’s mom bought us the kits for Christmas. The only mild surprise is that I’m 0.4% West African (which means I’m more African than Elizabeth Warren is Cherokee). Other than that, no big surprises. I’m roughly three-quarters Irish, which I already knew.
Now I kind of regret ever sending them my DNA. I don’t think they’ll do anything evil with it, you understand, but I don’t like knowing they’re in bed with GlaxoSmithKline. As Lori mentions, do we really believe a drug-maker is interested in passing out dietary advice that would reduce the market for diabetes drugs?