In 2007, Google made headlines when they invested $4.4 million in 23andMe, a genetic screening start-up company began by Anne Wojcicki, the wife of Google co-founder Sergey Brin, and a business partner. But if you thought that was Google’s only interest in genetics and DNA, you’re wrong. Google has also been investing in a second DNA start-up called Navigenics, which for $2,500 and a small bit of saliva will provide you with genetic test results delivered securely online containing information about the likelihood for 18 medical conditions.
Navigenics aims to help disease prevention by giving customers reports on their DNA screenings that can be shared with their doctors. Amongst those diseases screened for are Alzheimer’s, rheumatoid arthritis, and several types of cancer. Only those conditions which Navigenics have deemed to have had scientifically sound genetic studies are included in the test. Privacy concerns are addressed by encrypting customer identities, and the company will also provide genetic counseling.
The size of Google’s investment in Navigenics is not yet known. Both Google and Navigenics have thus far refused to disclose the size of the investment.
Similar to how Google invested in 23andMe, Google is hoping that by investing in Navigenics now at an early stage they are getting in early on the potentially large new market of genetic data. Google has always stated that their mission is to “organize the world’s information”, and genetic information would be included in that extremely broad statement.
If you’re worried about Google having access to both your online searching habits, as well as your genetic make-up, don’t worry, at least not yet. Navigenics says, “While Google is a financial investor in Navigenics, they don’t have access to our data…” And let’s hope it stays that way.