Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) recently used the 23andMe gene database to identify 15 genome sites linked with depression. 23andME is currently reporting an increased demand to access its personal genetics pioneer’s repository. The company noted that it had received nearly 20 requests to access the depression data, almost as many as it had received for the whole database in the fall of 2013.
In the fall of 2013, the company had 24 applications, while during the same period the following year, it had 45 applications. 23andMe is yet to disclose a figure for 2015 and 2016 though the number of the past two weeks suggests an upward trend is continuing.
Joyce Tung, director of research at 23andMe noted that when she joined in 2007, the team struggled to persuade academics that their data was a quality research tool. She now claims that the struggle currently is to keep up with academic demands to access the data. The turnaround fits with the evolution in the perception of 23andMe as the company’s data have been used more and more by research academics and the likes of Pfizer.
Tung notes that their database has been growing slowly to a point that they can run liberal genome-wide associated studies in the non-European group. Studying one ethnic group limits knowledge on diseases that impact one ethnic group more than another, such as sickle cell anemia, which affects primarily blacks. The company can now start focusing on how particular factors will affect how an individual responds to a drug.
If the project turns to be a success, it will influence the way that survey data is used. 23andMe is also aware that survey data could be a weak spot of its operations.