I wrote earlier in the year in Markets and Money about a new territory. It was based around the premise that Google might one day start their own country. They’d just carve off a piece of the world to make their own.
For arguments sake let’s call it Googleece.
Google CEO Larry Page said:
‘But maybe we should set aside a small part of the world, like going to Burning Man [festival] for example…That’s an environment where people can try out different things, but not everybody has to go. And I think that’s a great thing too. I think as technologists we should have some ‘safe places’ where we can try out some new things and figure out what’s the effect on society what’s the effect on people without having to deploy it kind of into the normal world.‘
And I think I know of another CEO that might be joining Larry. The world of Googleece might just find themselves willing cohabitants.
That would be Anne Wojcicki and her company 23andme.com.
Anne is the also the founder of 23andme. She also just so happens to be married to Google’s other co-founder, Sergey Brin (although reports have it they’re now separated).
Anyway Anne started 23andme to get into personal genomics and biotechnology. She believed genetic testing would have huge benefits for the world. As such she built 23andme to bring cost effective DNA analysis to the masses.
In fact 23andme is the same company that a few of Port Phillip Publishing’s editors used to have our own DNA tested a few months ago.
23andme is one of the most influential companies this decade. 23andme is also a part of a select group of pioneering companies.
These companies are at the pinnacle of an entire medical revolution. This new revolution is bigger and more exciting than any other era in history.
However, when you push the boundaries of science…you’ll meet some opposition. And in the case of 23andme, that’s exactly what they’re now dealing with.
In the last couple of weeks 23andme has copped the full brunt of US lawmakers. In particular the wrath of the FDA. But this isn’t the first time 23andme has been in the firing line.
The US congress has been after 23andme for years. Their hatred even goes back to a congressional hearing from 2010. In this hearing the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations grilled 23andme and others.
This hearing seemed more like a witch-hunt than a congressional hearing.
A blog post from FDABlog.org, explained some contrasting facts from this hearing. One in particular was about a misleading statement from the FDA.
During the hearing Rep. Parker Griffith of Alabama said:
‘I don’t think the companies here, if they disappeared tomorrow, would impact the scientific community…this is all bogus. This is nothing more than the snake-oil salesman revisited again in a high-tech way.‘
Dr. Jeffrey Shuren and FDA official said about the companies,
‘From the information we know, they are not doing their own research on the genetic profiles…they are interpreting the studies that have been performed by others.‘
The FDABlog continues on,
‘Just two days earlier, Dr. Shuren and other senior FDA officials sat ten feet from the podium as Anne Wojcicki, founder of personal genomics leader 23andMe, boomed into a microphone. "A unique and significant part of 23andMe’s site is the research component," said Wojcicki. "In 2009, we launched our first disease community in Parkinson’s disease. We enrolled over 2,000 individuals in the first three weeks alone. We have over 4,000 participants today… we are running hundreds of genome-wide association studies on a nightly basis. We have been able to replicate many of the major genetic findings and plan to publish more soon."‘
Note: Shuren still holds a senior position at the FDA.
Furthermore this latest attempt to bring 23andme to its knees seems to be quite coincidental. Coincidental in the fact just a few weeks ago 23and me was granted a new patent. This patent brings the subject of eugenics back into the public eye.
The FDA request of 23andme stinks of political influence. They’ve outright told them to stop selling their DNA kits.
Whether it’s politically driven or driven by motives of self-interest I’m not sure but it’s something I’ll dig further into.
DNA analysis is a part of the bigger picture of improving the public health. It’s valuable information about your own genetic make-up. And with that you can make positive changes to your lifestyle.
The way Congress and the FDA are making 23andme out to be charlatans is irresponsible at best.
I’m all for safe and effective DNA testing. And from my experience, and knowledge of the technology 23andme uses, it’s reckless to say they’re ‘Snake Oil Salesmen’.
Watch this space. For now 23andme has been apologetic to the FDA, no doubt through fear of wider reaching consequences. But no doubt behind closed doors they too are seething at the witch-hunt that seems to be on again.
If Page and Google open invitations to their new land of decreased regulation and increased innovation…I’m sure Wojcicki and 23andme will be asking for their golden ticket.
Technology Analyst, Revolutionary Tech Investor