South Bay News

Mountain View-based 23andMe seeks FDA approval

Monday, July 30, 2012

Do you wonder how long you will live? Are you at risk for some serious disease? A company known as 23andMe wants to give you the answers and right now, is seeking FDA approval.

For $299, you can spit into a container and have it shipped to a lab. Workers will then analyze the cells and determine your chances of getting everything from psoriasis to Parkinson's disease.

Mountain View-based 23andMe has been providing this service for five years now, but while it's growing, it's not growing fast enough.

"The numbers of our customers continue to grow rapidly. We just want to see explosive growth," said Ashley Gould, the chief legal officer for 23andMe.

So far, 150,000 people have signed up for the company's genetic testing service, but in order to attract more customers, 23andMe is now seeking FDA approval of its genetic tests.

"Over the last several years, it's been really clear to us that this industry needs some oversight in order to grow confidence in the industry," said Gould.

The direct-to-consumer genetic testing industry has been criticized over the years for offering supposedly misleading information and insufficient evidence that the tests measure genetic risks for diseases. 23andMe hopes, getting clearance from the FDA, will change public perception. But many people we talked to, say even with FDA approval, they're simply not interested in obtaining their genetic information.

"If I did get that testing done and I found out that 'Oh, I'm 50 percent predisposed to some disease,' I would be freaked out," said Palo Alto resident Zara Saraon.

"I don't want to know that much about myself. I think I would rather just live my life," said Mountain View resident Maxine Tuan.

23andMe is hoping for FDA approval as soon as possible. The company says it could be a matter of months.

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