Want Miracle Drugs? You Have to Get Lucky

23andMe's new drug-development venture is smart, but don't expect it to deliver lots of big breakthroughs.

A DNA sequence: Not all that helpful.

Photograph: SSPL/Getty Images)

The saliva harvesters at 23andMe have struck upon what sounds like a smart idea -- using the genetic data they gather about their customers to develop new medicines. The company, just emerging from a year-long standoff with the Food and Drug Administration over what it can tell people about the things it finds in their spit, has hired away Genentech’s head of research and early development to run its drug development effort.

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