Anne Wojcicki, aka Sergey Brin’s wife, told us in an interview she is gathering a marketing team for her gene startup.23andMe asks people to send in spit samples in a tube to build a crowdsourced gene database.
The company has not had a marketing campaign to increase enrollment in the past because genetic testing can be “kind of controversial,” Wojcicki explained, adding that the company “is better established now and people are more comfortable with the idea of testing their DNA.”
In December, 23andme launched its first holiday twitter campaign advertising 23 reasons why genetics testing gift would make a good buy. Besides looking for a marketing team, the company has snagged geneticscreening.com domain, which now redirects to 23andMe.com, for $2200.
23andme hopes to partner with more pharmaceutical companies in the future on phase I and phase II trials, which could lead to actual profit. Before then 23andme needs to bulk up its DNA database. As of October, the company has officially had 125,000 subscribers (including Rupert Murdoch!).
The company leverages its database containing the results of all the DNA tests to collaborate with pharmaceutical companies on number of research projects focusing on Sarcoma, Myeloproliferative Neoplasms and Alzheimer’s.
Wojcicki, who worked on Wall Street for 10 years and has a background in healthcare investing focused primarily on biotechnological companies, says that the current health care system is “not monetizing staying healthy.” Hence, in 2006, Linda Avey and Wojcicki founded 23andMe to get individuals to share information and data about themselves and help initiate preventative measures.
Wojcicki might have had another motivation as well, considering that her mother in law, Sergey Brin’s mum, was previously diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The condition is one of the main areas of focus for 23andMe and in October of last year, the company announced that it has identified a gene that could reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease.
Since 2006, the company has managed to raise $68 million in funds, according to Catherine Afarian, 23andMe’s spokesperson. In future, the company will look for strategic investors who will need to bring more to the table besides just funds. Past investors include New Enterprise Associates, The Roche Venture Fund, Esther Dyson and Google Ventures. New investors to join in the Series C financing, which was handled internally and raised $31 million, were MPM Capital and Johnson & Johnson Development Corporation.