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23andMe, Lupus Institute Partner on Genetics Study

Anne Wojcicki

Anne Wojcicki (23andMe)

5 May 2015. The personal genetics company 23 andMe and Lupus Research Institute are collaborating on a study of genetic associations with systemic lupus erythematosus, the disease more commonly known as lupus. Financial and intellectual property details of the collaboration between 23andMe, Lupus Research Institute, and Pfizer Inc. serving as an adviser to the project, were not disclosed.

Systemic lupus erythematosus is an autoimmune disease, where the immune system is tricked into attacking healthy tissue and cells,  in this case leading to inflammation in the joints, skin, and other organs including heart, lungs, and kidneys. The disorder is more common in women than men, mainly affecting individuals between the ages of 10 and 50.

Lupus Research Institute says systemic lupus erythematosus symptoms are highly variable, affecting people in different ways, with any two cases not often identical. The institute says some 1.5 million Americans have the disease.

Research up to now points to possible underlying factors for lupus, including genetics, hormones, or environmental factors. The joint project aims to identify more definitive genetic associations with the onset, progression, severity, and response to treatments of the disease, as well as their relationship with non-genetic variables.

“The ability to effectively personalize treatments for lupus patients is limited, due in large part to our incomplete understanding of the disease,” says 23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki in a company statement. “We hope to change that by studying human genetics alongside environmental and health history factors to ultimately help inform better treatment options for lupus patients.”

For the study, the partners plan to recruit 5,000 individuals with systemic lupus erythematosus, who will be asked to provide a saliva sample for analysis by 23andMe and take part in an online survey about their experiences with lupus, such as symptoms and responses to treatments. Participants will also be asked to provide access to their medical records, which the companies say will be kept protected and private.

Over the next 12 months, participants will be asked to complete 5 more brief (15-minute) online surveys, and a final questionnaire at the end. People taking part in the project, open to both current 23andMe customers and others, will receive a $50 gift card. The partners plan to make the raw longitudinal data available to lupus research community.

Recruitment of participants is expected to continue to mid-2016.

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