Rather than spread itself thin on a wide variety of genetic tests, the company took the more strategic decision to focus on its core existing business.
Taking a more pragmatic view, the team at 23andMe has dialed back some of its grandiose plans for DNA analysis.
As confirmed by co-founder Anne Wojcicki to BuzzFeed, the company has stopped working on its next-generation DNA sequencer, which could potentially reveal a lot more about our genes and their potential for diseases.
The decision to do so has nothing to do with regulatory or financial trouble, but rather a question of utility: the team at 23andMe figured it would be better to focus on its “core business” rather than stretch itself thin at this point.
Significantly, as pointed out by Wojcicki, the market for the next-gen tests is still in its “infancy”.
Although it is true that 23andMe doesn’t have to worry too much about its rivals catching up since most of them, which incudes, Color Genomics, Veritas Genetics and Helix are only just getting started. Whether or not they succeed is another matter altogether.
Furthermore, 23andMe hasn’t had trouble finding interest among scientists wanting to use its genetic data for medical research. However, weirdly enough, this precious data could be a source of a problem: what if that next-gen data becomes extremely useful?
In an interview to WSJD Live, Wojcicki provided a more detailed reason for discontinuing to work on the next-gen genetic sequencing.
“Next-generation sequencing is the hot shiny object. But what you’re going to do with all that information is extremely complicated.” If the results show that you have got a 5% chance of getting a form of cancer. Would you take appropriate counter measures? In fact, do you in fact need to do anything at all? These are all simple but highly complex questions.
As clarified by Wojcicki, 23andme is a direct-to-consumer product, and this means that the results it provides needs to be lucidly clear.
“We want to give information to individuals where there’s no ambiguity,” she said.
There are always disease-specific tests you can take, if you do so desire.