Who Owns 23andMe? Company Accused of Selling Users' Data

Mohit Oberoi, CFA - Author
By

Jul. 25 2022, Published 10:23 a.m. ET

U.S. Representative Jason Crow of Colorado, who's also a member of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee, has cautioned people against sharing their health data with companies like 23andMe. Who owns 23andMe and does the company sell users' data?

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23andMe is a human genome company that was founded in 2006 and claims to have over five million genotyped customers around the world. It was co-founded by Linda Avey, Paul Cusenza, and Anne Wojcicki. Wojcicki is currently the company’s CEO.

23andMe went public in 2021.

23andMe went public in 2021 through a reverse merger with VG Acquisition (VGAC) SPAC, which was a blank-check company sponsored by Sir Richard Branson. As has been the case with all the de-SPACs, including Branson-backed Virgin Galactic, 23andMe, which trades under the ticker symbol “ME,” has also crashed.

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VGAC stock spiked above $16 in February 2021 on optimism over the 23andMe merger. However, it has fallen sharply in 2022 and hit an all-time low of $2.12, while the SPAC IPO price was $10. While 23andMe stock has recovered somewhat from the lows, it's still trading below $3, a discount of more than 70 percent from the IPO price.

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Anne Wojcicki doesn't own many 23andMe shares.

Contrary to popular perception, Wojcicki doesn't own many 23andMe shares and her individual holding in the company is just under 1.40 percent. Before she co-founded 23andMe, she worked as a healthcare analyst with Passport Capital between 2004 and 2006. She held similar roles at Andor Capital Management between 2001 and 2002 and Ardsley Partners between 1999 and 2000. She completed her BS in biology from Yale University in 1996.

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Who owns 23andMe then?

Since 23andMe is a publicly traded company, it's owned by its stockholders. As is the case with many publicly-traded companies, Vanguard is the largest stockholder of 23andMe with a 6.8 percent stake. Euclidean Capital, which is a family office, owns almost a 4 percent stake. Sapphire Ventures, a venture capital fund, owns just above a 2 percent stake in 23andMe.

Wojcicki is the fourth-largest stockholder of the company followed by BlackRock. Hedge fund Renaissance Technologies and Millennial Management are also among the top 10 stockholders of 23andMe.

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What’s the controversy over 23andMe?

Crow has raised an alarm bell over companies doing DNA tests. He said, "You can actually take someone's DNA, take, you know, their medical profile and you can target a biological weapon that will kill that person or take them off the battlefield or make them inoperable.”

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Crow added, “People will very rapidly spit into a cup and send it to 23andMe and get really interesting data about their background.” However, he warned, “And guess what? Their DNA is now owned by a private company. It can be sold off with very little intellectual property protection or privacy protection and we don't have legal and regulatory regimes to deal with that.”

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23andMe says it doesn't shares user data without consent.

Crow has raised doubt over 23andMe selling their users’ data. The company’s privacy policy states that it doesn't share the data of its customers with third parties without their “explicit consent.” It also adds that it doesn't share information with law enforcement agencies unless it’s a court order or a valid subpoena.

Nonetheless, Crow has raised doubts over data privacy in the genomics industry. Cathie Wood of ARK Invest believes that the industry holds great long-term promise. However, like her favorite names, even genome stocks have crashed in 2022 amid the sell-off in growth stocks.

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