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Anne Wojcicki

Anne Wojcicki

What have you learned while investing in healthcare?

My experience of investing in health care companies for 10 years was that it's this B2B business where very rarely does the consumer ever get to have a choice. But if we want to change health care, the consumers have to have a voice. Like, we all care much more about our health than any one company cares about your health. I had learned when I was investing, you know, research is mostly done by academics and it's done by pharma companies. But you know, you might have specific interests. And I had found that people who have a chronic, unmet need or they have a terminal illness, they really want to participate. They want to do something. And so the idea here was almost like the Facebook of health care, or you know, like, the LinkedIn movement, like let people come together on their own. Don't just let it be the academics and the pharma and the biotech. Like, we want to participate, and we want to do more. And then 23andMe will partner with all those companies to make sure that all that data's being used.

How does 23andMe use big data?

Part of the goal was to see, could we actually dramatically accelerate the pace of research, meaningful research, for consumers? And the idea was, how can we -- does data make a difference? And so today, you know, with the 3 million customers that we have and the data points, we have a huge data set on a number of different diseases. So we're looking at that to see, can we actually develop drugs? And I think it will be really exciting for our customers to know that because of their contribution, they've been able to have an impact on a disease area that either affected them or affects someone that they know.

Why is 23andMe popular on social media?

We encourage our customers, if you want to share your data, we find it's a very social experience. People are very proud of their Neanderthal status. You know, how much Neanderthal they have, they post it on Facebook. They post it on social media. You know, one of the things that's fun is, like, it almost destigmatizes genetics. So we did a study, for instance, on depression. 400,000 people participated in it. And it was widely tweeted by our customers, in part because it was the largest-ever depression study, 400,000 people. And we made really significant findings, and people felt a sense of pride about what they had contributed to. So we find that people are contributing, are sharing with each other in terms of the research side. People are sharing in terms of what their own individual results are. And then people love to connect and say, like, maybe you and I are related. And so we can only find that out, it's like, if you spit and I spit, and then we share.


Anne Wojcicki, founder of genetic testing firm 23andMe, discusses the use of big data in disease prevention and the investment climate in healthcare.