Morehouse School of Medicine, Sickle Cell Foundation of Georgia and 23andMe Launch Sickle Cell Carrier Status Awareness Program
Program aims to increase access to information on sickle cell carrier status, and offer resources to individuals with sickle cell trait and sickle cell disease
Expands existing initiatives between 23andMe and Morehouse School of Medicine to increase equity in genetics and genomics
ATLANTA and SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO, Calif., April 11, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Today, 23andMe Holding Co. (Nasdaq: ME) (23andMe), a leading human genetics and biopharmaceutical company, Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM), and the Sickle Cell Foundation of Georgia (SCFG) announced the launch of a Sickle Cell Carrier Status Awareness program to help increase access to sickle cell carrier status information, raise awareness of sickle cell disease (SCD), and offer resources for individuals with sickle cell trait (SCT) and SCD.
In the first such collaboration between a genetic testing company and a Historically Black Medical College (HBMC), 23andMe will offer its Health+Ancestry DNA testing kits at no cost to MSM students, faculty and staff, providing individuals the opportunity to learn more about their ancestral heritage and access over 65 Health reports and features. This includes genetic reports on several conditions that disproportionately affect the Black and African American community, including a Carrier Status report on sickle cell anemia*. Program participants will also be offered counseling by the Sickle Cell Foundation of Georgia after receiving their 23andMe results. Through this effort 23andMe hopes to increase representation of the Black and African American community within its cohort so that its products, services, and research benefit all people equitably.
23andMe’s FDA-authorized Sickle Cell Anemia Carrier Status report tests for the HbS variant in the Hemoglobin Subunit Beta (HBB) gene, which is linked to sickle cell anemia and other forms of SCD. Three-hundred-million people worldwide and one in thirteen Black or African Americans in the United States are carriers for sickle cell anemia or have SCT.
“Our goal at 23andMe is to empower people through access to their genetic data, enabling consumers to make better, more informed decisions about their health,” said Joyce Tung, Vice President, Research at 23andMe. “In addition to educating more people on their carrier status, genetic health risks* and potential risks for family members, we believe this collaboration can contribute to more equitable research in, and product development for, groups of non-European ancestry.”
“The collaboration between MSM, 23andMe, and the SCFG offers the potential for impact at scale,” said Herman Taylor, Endowed Professor and Director of the Cardiovascular Research Institute (CVRI) at Morehouse School of Medicine. “Working together, we have the opportunity to share scientific and health insights for diseases that impact those in the Black and African American community at higher rates, allowing individuals to address health risks early and prevent disease.”
The CVRI at MSM is a center of multidisciplinary exploration and development focused on promotion of cardiovascular health for all. Traditional and novel approaches—from multiomics to digital epidemiology to AI--explore multilevel pathways—from cellular to community-- to heart health and resilience, while centering health equity and the resolution of health disparities. The Institute is supported by grants from multiple funders (National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the American Heart Association, United Health, the Truist Foundation, the National Football League Players Association, Apple Corporation, Google, 23and Me and others) and has a broad network of collaborators in CVD and related diseases.
About Sickle Cell Disease
SCD is a group of inherited red blood cell disorders. SCD involves abnormal hemoglobin in red blood cells, causing them to become hard and sticky and look like a sickle (crescent). When “sickled” cells travel through small blood vessels, they can get stuck and clog the blood flow, causing pain and other serious complications such as infection, acute chest syndrome and stroke. These sickled cells also get destroyed prematurely, leading to anemia and symptoms such as fatigue.
People who carry one copy of the HbS variant in the HBB gene have SCT. People with SCT typically do not experience any symptoms; however, their children could be at risk of inheriting SCD if their partner is also a carrier for an HBB variant. People who carry one copy of other genetic variants in the HBB gene can be carriers for other hemoglobin disorders that can also cause SCD.
Additional 23andMe and MSM collaborations
This program is one of many ways in which 23andMe and MSM are working together to increase equity in genetics and genomics. These include recent research collaborations to study topics such as SCT and COVID-19, as well as type 2 diabetes-related kidney disease. To further their joint goal of increasing representation in science and medicine, 23andMe supported MSM’s 2022 APEX pre-medical pathway program for undergraduate students underrepresented in medicine in Georgia, and in 2023 has supported PhD and MD interns.
23andMe is a genetics-led consumer healthcare and biopharmaceutical company empowering a healthier future. For more information, please visit www.23andMe.com.
About Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM)
Founded in 1975, Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) is among the nation's leading educators of primary care physicians, biomedical scientists, and public health professionals. An independent and private historically-Black medical school, MSM was recognized by the Annals of Internal Medicine as the nation's number one medical school in fulfilling a social mission—the creation and advancement of health equity. Morehouse School of Medicine's faculty and alumni are noted for excellence in teaching, research, and public policy, as well as exceptional patient care. MSM is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award doctoral and master's degrees. To learn more about programs and donate today, please visit www.msm.edu or call 404-752-1500.
About Sickle Cell Foundation of Georgia (SCFG)
The Sickle Cell Foundation of Georgia is one of the oldest sickle cell-focused institutions in the nation. Its mission is to reduce the incidence of sickle cell disease, to monitor the prevalence of sickle cell and to help improve the quality of life for persons afflicted with the disease. To achieve its directives, the Foundation sponsors educational programs, conducts sickle cell trait testing, counsels families, supports healthcare providers and coordinates activities that benefit patients throughout the year. Visit sicklecellga.org for more information.
Important 23andMe Test Information:
*The 23andMe PGS test uses qualitative genotyping to detect select clinically relevant variants in the genomic DNA of adults from saliva for the purpose of reporting and interpreting genetic health risks and reporting carrier status. It is not intended to diagnose any disease. Your ethnicity may affect the relevance of each report and how your genetic health risk results are interpreted. Each genetic health risk report describes if a person has variants associated with a higher risk of developing a disease, but does not describe a person’s overall risk of developing the disease. The test is not intended to tell you anything about your current state of health, or to be used to make medical decisions, including whether or not you should take a medication, how much of a medication you should take, or determine any treatment. Our carrier status reports can be used to determine carrier status, but cannot determine if you have two copies of any genetic variant. These carrier reports are not intended to tell you anything about your risk for developing a disease in the future, the health of your fetus, or your newborn child's risk of developing a particular disease later in life. For certain conditions, we provide a single report that includes information on both carrier status and genetic health risk. The Sickle Cell Anemia carrier status report is indicated for the detection of the HbS variant in the HBB gene. The report can tell you if you have two copies of the tested variant, and if you are at risk of developing symptoms of sickle cell anemia, but does not describe your overall risk of developing symptoms. This test is most relevant for people of African descent. It is also relevant for people of Middle Eastern and South Asian descent, as well as people from the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, and parts of Central and South America. For important information and limitations regarding other genetic health risk reports and carrier status reports, visit www.23andme.com/test-info.
Forward Looking Statements
This press release contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, including, without limitation, statements regarding the future performance of 23andMe’s businesses in consumer genetics and therapeutics and the growth and potential of its proprietary research platform. All statements, other than statements of historical fact, included or incorporated in this press release, including statements regarding 23andMe’s strategy, financial position, funding for continued operations, cash reserves, projected costs, plans, and objectives of management, are forward-looking statements. The words "believes," "anticipates," "estimates," "plans," "expects," "intends," "may," "could," "should," "potential," "likely," "projects," “predicts,” "continue," "will," “schedule,” and "would" or, in each case, their negative or other variations or comparable terminology, are intended to identify forward-looking statements, although not all forward-looking statements contain these identifying words. These forward-looking statements are predictions based on 23andMe’s current expectations and projections about future events and various assumptions. 23andMe cannot guarantee that it will actually achieve the plans, intentions, or expectations disclosed in its forward-looking statements and you should not place undue reliance on 23andMe’s forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements involve a number of risks, uncertainties (many of which are beyond the control of 23andMe), or other assumptions that may cause actual results or performance to differ materially from those expressed or implied by these forward-looking statements. The forward-looking statements contained herein are also subject generally to other risks and uncertainties that are described from time to time in the Company’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including under Item 1A, “Risk Factors” in the Company’s most recent Annual Report on Form 10-K, as filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, and as revised and updated by our Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q and Current Reports on Form 8-K. The statements made herein are made as of the date of this press release and, except as may be required by law, 23andMe undertakes no obligation to update them, whether as a result of new information, developments, or otherwise.
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