A 23andMe competitor is teaming up with genetic research powerhouses in a nationwide population health study to see if certain diseases like cancer can be prevented

Courtesy Colour Genomics
  • Colour Genomics on Tuesday announced a partnership with several universities for a nationwide study of genetics and health.
  • It will serve as one of the three genome centres in the “All of Us” research program.
  • Colour will be responsible for analysing and reporting genomic data for a set of genes that can cause preventable medical conditions.

In an ambitiously large, nationwide population health study, genetics startups and heavy-weights are collaborating together to analyse a wide array of genetic data to see if there are any clues for prevention and treatment of diseases like cancer and high cholesterol.

Genetic testing company Colour Genomics announced on Tuesday a partnership with MIT and Harvard’s Broad Institute as well as the Laboratory for Molecular Medicine at Partners Healthcare in order to establish a genome center for a nationwide, National Institutes of Health-funded research project.

The project, called the “All of Us” research program, will use three genome centres across the country to collect data from over 1 million participants from diverse backgrounds nationwide. The data will be de-identified to find treatments and prevention strategies for genetic-related medical conditions.

To partake in the project, participants share personal information, access to electronic health records, as well as blood and urine samples. Over 110,000 people have registered for the program, and over half of them have completed all the requirements.

The genome centres will then analyse the genetic data and collect information about a set of 59 genes known to be associated with risks of preventable diseases and conditions. These include breast and ovarian cancer, familial hypercholesterolemia, and Lynch syndrome. Then the centres will test out pharmacogenomic drug interactions that could help researchers develop future treatments and therapeutics.

Colour Genomics, a competitor to 23andMe, launched in 2016 to provide consumers with genetic tests that allow them to gauge their risk for different hereditary cancers and high cholesterol. It had previously partnered with universities to provide its genetic tests for free alongside a genetic counselor.

All of Us is a tremendous opportunity to unlock the benefits of genetic information to better understand disease and help people live healthier lives,” Colour CEO Othman Laraki said in the press release.

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