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23andMe Acquires CureTogether to Boost Crowdsourced Genetic Health Research

23andMe Acquires CureTogether to Boost Crowdsourced Genetic Health Research

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Published by: Crowdsourcing.org on Jul 12, 2012
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02/03/2013

 
23andMe Makes First Acquisition, NabsCureTogether To Double Down OnCrowdsourced Genetic Research
Founded in 2006,23andMe set out with an ambitious goal: To one daymake the human genome searchableby becoming the go-to resource forpersonal genetic information.Leveraging DNA analysistechnology and web-basedinteractive tools, the company
developed a “Personal GenomeService” that allows anyone and
everyone to access and betterunderstand their genetic data, including their ancestry and predispositionto certain diseases.But the company believes that its true differentiation and valueproposition today derives from a novel research model. Along withproviding users with 200+ health and traits reports and ancestry info, theservice enables users to opt-into sharing their medical and familyhistory, lifestyle and other phenotypic data, contributing it to geneticresearch or participating directly in studies and surveys.
 
So, when 23andMe was recently awarded its first patent for determining
a user’s risk for Parkinson’s Disease, it was naturally seen as big
validation for its crowdsourced and community-driven approach togenetic research.With its patent representing both a validation of its research and modeland a potential new revenue stream), 23andMe now wants to doubledown on patient and community-driven research. And what better wayto follow your first patent than with your first acquisition? On Tuesday,the company officially announced that it is scooping up the four-year-oldCureTogether,a similarly-focused startup that aims to give people the tools they need to create their own research studies, learn about theirhealth, and connect with experts and others who suffer from similarconditions.Launched in 2008, CureTogether began simply as a way to help peoplewho live with chronic pain fight depression and connect with acommunity. Starting with three conditions, the startup quickly expandedits scope and today has over 25,000 members, who have shared overfour million data points on 576 medical conditions.
While the terms of the deal were not disclosed, CureTogether’s founders
Daniel Reda and Alexandra Carmichael will be joining the team, alongwith, presumably, the startups user base. For 23andMe, the acquisitionadds a whole heap of new c
ommunity resources that will improve users’
ability to share information, talk about symptoms, and comparetreatment efficacies as they track their health.
 
The deal makes a lot of sense from both sides. The two startups havecomplementary platforms, and th
ere’s no doubt that 23andMe sees those
four million phenotypic data points as a valuable addition to its database,using them to inform their research and no doubt develop further
vulnerability assessments for diseases beyond Parkinson’s.
CureTogether, on the other hand, which has been plodding along at aconsistent pace, building a respected support and education community,could have continued on course.But the appeal of an exit becomes clear when seen as an access point to
23andMe’s sizable
$53 million of funding and brand recognition.23andMe was co-founded by Anne Wojcicki, the wife of Google co-founder Sergey Brin, who has himself contributed financial support tothe startup (along with Google). Obviously, Google and Bring would beremiss if this ever translated into favoritism for the platform, but
certainly those family connections can’t hurt.
 23andMe has built a strong leadership team and has recently begun tomake strategic additions to position it for growth as a commercialgenetic testing market. Earlier this month, for example, the startup added  Andy Page to its board of directors. Page is the President of Gilt Groupe(and previously its CFO), as well as a former COO and CFO atPlayPhone and CFO of StubHub.These, among others, are why, despitesome bumps along the way, the startup now has $53M in backing and seems hard to bet against,especially now that it has fixed its hotly-contested pricing plan (and has its first patent in-pocket).

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