Anne Wojcicki: Powering Humans Through Genome Benefits

Supriti Tripathy

14th Jul'21

A perfect businesswoman, Anne Wojcicki broke open the barriers of healthcare with the foundation of 23andMe, a personal genomics company. Her immense contribution to human genome research beyond challenges faced as a woman entrepreneur and finding how genomes can empower human beings is revolutionary. Honoured with Glassdoor's 2019 Employees' Choice Award as a top CEO, her accolades are numerous. She comes from a professors' family and has been imbibed with the importance of education right from her childhood. After she graduated from Yale University in Biology, she went on to pursue her career in healthcare.  

The zeal to do something more for society rather than gruntled with a regular job kept her going. She focused on research completely and left her job at Wall Street. In 2006, she co-founded 23andMe with Linda Avey and Paul Cusenza, who soon went ahead with their companies, and Anne took over as the CEO. Today she is worth $690 million and recently has been listed under Forbes World's 100 Most Powerful Women. Anne credits her parents for the freedom they showered on her that ultimately made her succeed.

 

23andme

 

Work Beyond Money

23andMe is a genomics company that provides DNA testing kits directly to the consumer. Through 23andMe, customers can assess the health-related risks of their ancestors and get more information about the DNA only by submitting their saliva samples. A lot of time goes into the research of the samples to impart accuracy to the results. The mission itself is to incentivize the prevention of diseases instead of monetizing over it. The biggest fear of humans is death but to die through hereditary diseases or long-term illness is far bigger a pain. It not just scares one generation but runs through periods through genetics. 

23andMe has had a clear objective since its inception. The research not only works on the challenges of diseases but offers customized treatments. The serious unmet medical needs are prioritized through consumers' participation and multiple studies at once, reducing time and resources. Anna is a perfect example of an empowering woman who took the aspects of health and well being of others at hand.

 

Products Offered and Challenges

23andMe began its business by offering sample kits to consumers directly intended to check the ancestral health risks via the DNA samples. Ancestry Detail Reports, Composition, Traits, Haplogroups and Neanderthal Ancestry are some of the categories of services offered. It also gives access to an online tool to its customers to track and connect with their siblings with the same DNA.

The Food and Drug Administration barred the company from selling personal genome services in the US for public health reasons and over the ambiguity of the results' accuracy. However, the company managed to get FDA approval in 2015 and continued its services in the US, UK, and Canada. The tests include a rigorous study of characteristics of diseases like Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, Dystonia, Gaucher, etc. The Ancestry and Trait Service is costed around $99 per individual.

 

How Far have they Come?

23andMe derives its name from the fact that 23 types of chromosomes are found in a human cell. The year 2007 made 23andMe the company that serves major pharmaceutical firms through its Ancestry DNA testing. In 2008, it was named the "Invention of the Year" by Time Magazine. In July 2018, GlaxoSmithKline partnered with 23andMe and invested $300 million to further the study and invent new drugs. GSK mostly deals with vaccines, cancer treatments, HIV treatment and other contagious diseases. Today 23andMe has a wide distributing channel across 57 countries pioneering into many subcategories of healthcare, giving hope to patients and doctors alike. 

In these 15 years, 23andMe has collected a lot of investment from Sequoia Capital and NewView Capital. It has raised around $869 million to date, including $25 million from Richard Branson and the CEO Anne Wojcicki. It is in talks that in 2021, the Silicon Valley Company 23andMe will merge with a special purpose acquisition company called VG Acquisition Corp, founded by billionaire Richard Branson. This merger will only expand the horizons of the company's functioning, making more inventions in the human genome space and catering to many more countries.

 

anne

 

An Inspirational Breakthrough

The company 23andMe is a breakthrough to science, technology and healthcare. With the advent of the Covid 19 pandemic, the importance of genome study is more significant than ever. 23andMe not only contributes to medical research reports but also promises an overall therapeutic development. It has served more than 26 million people and records their results in its database. The possibilities of getting answers to many untreated diseases are finally here to stay and help people understand and benefit from the human genome. The quote by Simon Sinek below perfectly summarizes Anne Wojcicki's work.

Great leaders must have two things: a vision of the world that does not exist and the ability to communicate that vision clearly.

 

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A believer of good things and pursuer of diverse avocation, she is a fiction lover and a simple writer. Supriti has a number of professions to her list and she feels challenges are the only answers to failures.

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