23andMe launches Parkinson's disease
community for genetics research
23 March 2009
23andMe Inc., a personal genetics company based in California, has
launched a Parkinson's disease initiative in collaboration with The
Parkinson's Institute and Clinical Center (PI) and The Michael J Fox
Foundation (MJFF). The first-of-its-kind program will focus on enrolling
10,000 individuals with Parkinson's disease (PD) in the 23andMe Personal
Genome Service and its new PD community.
This cohort will allow 23andMe to both advance research in
Parkinson's disease and create an online forum dedicated to connecting
individuals and families affected by the disease. PI and MJFF are
reaching out to Parkinson's patients in their networks and encouraging
them to participate. 23andMe, PI and MJFF believe this effort will serve
as a model for supporting research in many other diseases.
The initiative takes advantage of the 23andMe web-based platform to
create an entirely new way to study complex diseases complicated by
gene/environment interactions that are difficult to assess using
traditional research mechanisms.
By using the Internet to query and interact with the research cohort,
this platform significantly increases the efficiency and reduces the
cost of recruiting participants and conducting research. The broad reach
of the web allows individuals who are not near research centres to
contribute and be part of the program.
Current customers of 23andMe, who are not Parkinson's disease
patients, can also contribute by participating as healthy controls, a
built-in efficiency that lowers the overall cost.
"We are excited to offer our patients the opportunity to join the
23andMe Parkinson's community," said J William Langston, MD, the
Scientific Director and CEO of PI. "Not only will our patients benefit
from the opportunity to know more about their personal genetic
background, they understand that knowledge is strength, and only through
greater understanding can we collectively advance science and medicine."
Katie Hood, CEO of The Michael J Fox Foundation, said, "The 23andMe
Parkinson's initiative holds potential to leverage DNA technology, the
Internet, and patient participation to accelerate discoveries that
enhance our understanding of Parkinson's disease and our ability to
develop breakthrough therapeutics."
The initiative is made possible through funding by Google co-founder
Sergey Brin. Mr Brin's commitment comes from his personal interest in
Parkinson's disease. Brin's mother has Parkinson's and he discovered
through 23andMe that he has a genetic predisposition to the disease as
He explained, "We can make significant progress in understanding
Parkinson's disease if individuals join together and contribute their
personal experiences to scientific research. Individually, our genes and
experiences are lost in a sea of statistical noise. But, taken together
they become a high power lens on our inner workings."
Mr Brin's personal donation substantially underwrites the cost of
genotyping the participants, who will pay only $25 compared with the
usual commercial price of $399. Individuals who join through the PI and
MJFF partnership will have the exact same data, information, tools, and
access as individuals who have paid full price for the 23andMe Personal
The company plans to announce similar initiatives around other
diseases. "Our approach of combining genetic data with the web-based
collection of condition-specific information has the potential to drive
the study of many disorders," said 23andMe co-founder Linda Avey. "We
plan to partner with other sponsors and organizations and expand our
research into new communities."
The Michael J Fox Foundation (MJFF):
The Parkinson's Institute and Clinical Center:
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