DNA testing company 23andMe is teaming with pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) to develop new drug treatments, but the new partnership is raising some privacy concerns.
The $300 million stake gives GSK access to a huge database of DNA information, which essentially allows DNA to be made public, according to Fox News medical correspondent Dr. Marc Siegel, who linked the concerns to the science fiction film “Blade Runner.”
“I don’t want to be identified on the street,” he told FOX Business’ Stuart Varney on “Varney & Co.” on Thursday.
A spokesperson for 23andMe, however, said the collaboration with GSK doesn’t make DNA public information, nor does it share data with third parties without user’s consent.
“Data for research is only used in aggregate and it is de-identified. In addition at this time, GSK will only be receiving aggregated data from customers who've consented to participate in research,” Scott Hadly said via email.
23andMe uses saliva samples to conduct DNA tests that allows its more-than 5 million customers to find out about their ancestry. After receiving the personal data, the laboratory removes and discards any identifying information included with saliva samples before testing personnel receive the samples for genotyping to protect privacy, according to the company website.
The tests are intended to identify a user's ancestry and genetic risks to certain diseases, according to Siegel, and may not be completely incognito.
“It’s supposed to be anonymous. There’s been glitches. You can say to 23andMe, ‘Throw out my spit,’ but the problem is some of it may be used in studies,” he said.
Hadly said 23andMe doesn’t use data for research without the customer’s consent, adding “there have not been ‘glitches’ around maintaining our customers' privacy.”
This story has been updated to include a statement from 23andMe