23andMe wants to expand its reach — and possibly its consumer health product line. The personal genomics company announced today that it had raised $115 million in venture capital financing. Part of that money will help the company expand its operations abroad, according to a press release. But Bloomberg reports that the money will also be used to accelerate work on a "revamped product with health analysis," which 23andMe hopes to launch by the end of this year.
23andMe experienced a major setback in 2013 when the FDA ruled that the company had violated federal guidelines by giving people information about their disease risk without proving that the tests were accurate. Since then, the company has only been able to provide US consumers with information about their ancestry (although people in the UK can buy 23andMe's health reports). Recently, the company got FDA approval to tell people about their carrier status test for a single genetic syndrome. 23andMe also struck a deal with biotech company Genentech, which gave it access to 23andMe's anonymized genetic database.
23andMe "will return health reports to consumers by the end of this year."
Still, the company hasn't exactly made a comeback yet. To many, its name remains tied to a 2013 FDA letter that essentially told the public that 23andMe was illegally marketing a genetic test. As a result, 23andMe was potentially giving people false information about their health that they might act on. And that's why this new round of funding is so intriguing; it seems to be aimed at turning public perception around.
23andMe "will return health reports to consumers by the end of this year," Carlyn Tomares, a spokesperson for 23andMe, told The Verge. 23andMe already has an FDA approval for a Bloom Syndrome carrier test, but the company seems to want to get back to where it was before 2013. The company will also use the money to build a research lab for its in-house drug discovery team, and a sequencing lab for its research and consumer product efforts.
This year "was better than 2014 and 2013," Anne Wojcicki, the company’s chief executive, told Forbes. "Without a doubt."
Among 23andMe's investors are Google Ventures, WuXi Healthcare Ventures, and Gaskin Capital. Despite all this interest in the company, 23andMe president Andy Page told Bloomberg that the company won't consider an initial public offering next year. Forbes now values the company at $1.1 billion.