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The pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline is starting human trials of the first medicine, a cancer drug, that has emerged from its two-year-old collaboration with consumer genetics firm 23andMe.

The novel partnership focuses on using 23andMe’s massive genetic database, composed of the test results and self-reported health data from 12 million consumers who have taken its tests to learn about their ancestry and a smattering of disease-related genes, and who have said their samples could be used in research. GSK uses the database to try and validate genes and proteins that could be what researchers call targets for new drugs — that is, the proteins and other molecules whose functions medicines block or otherwise change.


The new experimental drug is an antibody targeting the CD96 receptor, and is aimed at enabling the immune system to attack cancer cells. The receptor is expressed on so-called natural killer cells, and the drug is designed to keep tumors from attaching to the receptor to thwart the tumor-killing actions of the natural killer cells. It has entered phase I trials, with the first patient dosed earlier this month. GSK will announce the development as part of its quarterly earnings call this morning.

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