Recode Decode 23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki

  • Does 23 & Me really work: The science of your genetic ancestry is really good. It will keep refining over time. The databases are getting bigger. There are more and more populations. (2:41) 

  • Scientific illiteracy is one of 23 & Me’s biggest competitors: One of our biggest competitors [in the health science space] is Goop Health and Gwyneth Paltrow because she has so much pull. So much of what she promotes doesn’t have the scientific validity my team could stand behind. All we can do is educate customers on what is real science. (6:42) 

  • The harder path is less crowded: Of all the direct to consumer [genetic testing] companies, we are the only ones who have gone through the FDA process. 23 & Me is the only company that doesn’t require physician oversight or a prescription. It is a hard path. There is a reason no other company is doing it. (10:30) 

  • The biggest opportunity for 23 & Me: A lot of people don’t really take ownership of their health. [Changing this is the biggest opportunity for 23 & Me] We are hoping to inspire people to understand: You are the center of your health. The more you take charge of yourself the healthier you can be. (15:24) 

  • How 23 & Me helps customers: Our mission is about people being able to access, understand, and benefit from the human genome. We do this by helping you know how to be healthier and what to do [based on your genetics] (29:27) 

  • Genetics can save lives: I think one thing genetics can do is help eliminate a lot of early, premature deaths. BRCA [breast cancer gene] being one example. People dying early from breast or ovarian cancer. You could potentially prevent that. (30:43) 

  • Will 23 & Me ever become an insurance benefit or just self pay? Self-pay. People don’t realize when insurance companies pay for your information, they own it. Health care in my mind should be affordable and accessible and should have a self-pay option. [like other countries outside of the US] (37:42) 

  • What mistake did the company make in the early days: The thing we missed early on is how long it takes to educate people about something new. It was a slog to educate people about genetics. People didn’t even understand why they would want to know their genetic information. (38:33) 

  • Anne on going public: I think being a public company is the last resort option because you lose your privacy. You have all these people paid to spy on you [analysts]. There is no glory. What people actually want is liquidity. There are new ways to have liquidity. (42:42)

  • Full podcast here.