Mountain View, CA and New York, NY — 23andMe, the spit-kit DNA test company that announced a partnership with GSK last year, is embarking on a new health care foray. In partnership with the startup TrialSpark, 23andMe is going to play its part in revolutionizing clinical trials. Typically accessible only by patients who live close to physical sites, which are primarily found in urban hubs, trials have historically struggled with volunteer recruitment. TrialSpark enables sponsors to widen the scope of their trials, providing the technological groundwork and support staff to help local physicians host studies, sometimes enrolling just a single volunteer. The goal is for patients who live far away from study sites to enroll in a trial by going to their own local doctor. 

Using the data gathered from its DNA tests, 23andMe has been emailing its users—if they’ve opted in to such messaging—about clinical trials that might be appropriate for them. This is, in essence, hyper-targeted advertising for medical research. Emily Drabant Conley, Vice President of Business Development at 23andMe, explains that this became a viable course of action for them about 18 months ago: “Frankly, we didn’t really have enough customers for it to make sense, and now we’re at a place where that has changed.” 

“We think that we could be meeting a very interesting need,” Drabant Conley said. “It’s still early, but it’s something that we feel excited about.” 23andMe’s enormous bank of people’s genetic data and contact information puts the company in a powerful spot. With TrialSpark increasing the number of accessible trials, 23andMe can both alert people to their health conditions, as well as potential opportunities for healing.

Why This Matters

Approximately 48% of study sites don’t meet their volunteer-enrollment targets, and this is notwithstanding the tremendous amount of money often spent on recruitment. According to TrialSpark’s release, “Through our collaboration, 23andMe and TrialSpark are unlocking an opportunity for sponsors to conduct trials that are patient-centric, faster, and uniquely data-driven.”

And recruitment isn’t the only trial aspect that will be eased. TrialSpark’s technological platform, which is implemented across all trials sites, allows for flexible trial design that is not only seamless and faster, but enables sponsors to create rapidly deployed adaptive trials.

About the Author:

Ben helps spark innovative healthcare thinking as Associate Director of Innovation. Previously on the editorial staff of Vanity Fair, he brings experience in engaging, rigorous storytelling to the healthcare world. Ben’s goals are to move brands to rethink their roles, own their evolving narratives, and maintain vital and vigorous consumer relationships.