How Sergey Brin can avoid Parkinson's Disease

Jackson West · 09/19/08 10:00AM

Google cofounder Sergey Brin has popped his blogging cherry, using his first post as an excuse to promote his wife Anne Wojcicki's personal genetic testing company 23andMe. Turns out Brin has a genetic mutation likely inherited from his mother that indicates a higher risk for Parkinson's Disease — a debilitating condition that affects movement, resulting in tremors and eventual paralysis. Which would certainly be a terrible fate for a gymnast who loves kite-surfing. Brin has "decades to prepare for it," though. My suggestion?Brin should do what many in the health-obsessed Valley unilaterally shun: Take up smoking, as nicotine has been shown to have a prophylactic effect on the degeneration of dopamine-producing brain cells in mice.

23andMe geneticists want to knock off Fashion Week cheekbones

Jackson West · 09/12/08 05:00AM

Google-backed startup 23andMe is working on fixing the Bay Area beauty gap by convincing the pretty people at New York's Fashion Week to submit genetic samples for the new, low cost of $399. As non-California residents, Manhattanites represent a genetic talent pool untouched by regulatory agencies in the startup's home state. 23andMe cofounders Anne Wojcicki and Linda Avey, pictured here, see fashionistas as runway dilettantes, and therefore brick-dumb.But by figuring out the single-nucleotide polymorphisms which lead to chiseled features and a high-powered metabolism, Wojcicki might figure out how to make sure her next child with Google cofounder Sergey Brin is healthy, smart and ravishingly beautiful according to media norms. My suggestion? New York's models should be making 23andMe pay them for saliva samples. It's not like Wojcicki, whose startup is already backed by her husband's employer, can't dial for more dollars from Google's new venture investment arm whenever she feels like it.

Genentech laughs off $43.7 billion buyout offer

Paul Boutin · 08/13/08 01:20PM

You're forgiven if you don't know there's a company a few miles north of Google that pulls in more than $10 billion a year selling drugs. Genentech makes the cancer treatment Avastin, the arthritis and lymphoma drug Rituxan, and the breast cancer fighter Herceptin, each of which bring in a few billion a year. Its stock, which trades under the symbol DNA, nearly touched $100 a share yesterday, a three-year high. Market cap is just over $100 billion, not far behind Google's $118 billion. Once you know all that, it's not surprising that the company nixed a buyout offer from Roche, its majority shareholder. San Francisco's bid to become the world's biotech center is moving more slowly than planned, but just you wait another ten years. These little drug companies are going to get a lot bigger.

Bayer building in Berkeley gets visit from bomb squad

Jackson West · 08/12/08 03:20PM

The Berkeley Police department responded to a call of a suspicious suitcase outside a building owned by Bayer AG on 7th street between Dwight and Parker. The pharmaceutical manufacturer has their biotechnology headquarters in the town and contributes grants to student research at the University of California. Officers cleared the area and the bomb squad detonated the suitcase — click for more photos from the scene. So the question is: Terrorist hippies for forgetful hobo? (Photo by vathryn)

23andMe promises to explain your hatred of cilantro — with science!

Jackson West · 08/07/08 09:40AM

Got to hand it to the team at 23andMe — when employees say that their personal gene sequencing services serve no medical purpose whatsoever, they mean it. Case in point is the company's latest blog post promises that with enough customer feedback, they may just be able to answer the age old question "Is my distaste for common herb cilantro a product of nature or nurture?" [The Spittoon] (Photo by Simon J. Hernandez)

Will Art Levinson leave Genentech after a Roche takeover?

Owen Thomas · 07/22/08 12:20PM

South of the City and hard by the shores of San Francisco Bay, Genentech rarely attracts the attention of the founders of flashy Internet startups as they drive past its offices on the way to the airport. But the biotech company's longtime CEO, Art Levinson, is an integral part of the Silicon Valley scene, serving on the boards of both Google and Apple. That's why Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche's move to buy the 44 percent of Genentech it doesn't already own for a price north of $38 billion could have reverbations well beyond the world of automated pipetting systems.

Cloned dog in canoe

Jackson West · 07/18/08 06:00PM

As F. Scott Fitzgerald once quipped, "The rich are different than you and me." Case in point here is this pet cruising on Echo Lake in the Sierras, apparently one of six privately cloned in South Korea from a deceased dog named Missy. Have a better caption? The best one will become the new headline. Yesterday's winner: "Only the truly unfortunate use Comic Sans" by sample032. (Photo by Steve Jurvetson)

23andMe told to cease and desist by California Department of Public Health

Jackson West · 06/17/08 04:00PM

Not a good week for the Wojcicki family. Googler Susan Wojcicki has been caught making expensive demands on Google's daycare facilities. Meanwhile, her sister Anne, wife of Google cofounder Sergey Brin, is fending off cease-and-desist letters from pesky health regulators. Anne's company, Google-backed 23andMe, was told to stop offering the tests until officials could complete an investigation into whether sales to California residents were by doctor's orders, as required by state law. The genetics startup risks fines of up to $3,000 a day if it doesn't comply.

23andMe admits personalized genetic test serves no medical purpose

Jackson West · 04/18/08 02:40PM

Facing possible fines and jail time, local gene sequencers Navigenics and 23andMe will have to get permits if they want to continue testing resident of New York state. Meanwhile, California is investigating 12 complaints against unnamed gene sequencing companies, with officials noting that "all genetic tests must be ordered by a licensed physician." Trying to distance themselves from health regulators, 23andMe spokesman Paul Kranholdt told Forbes that "23andMe's services are not medical ... they are educational." In other words, getting tested amounts to a $1,000 exercise in vanity. No wonder people in the Valley love it.

Actual doctors urge skepticism of DNA-sequencing fad

Jackson West · 04/01/08 04:20PM

Personal gene sequencing is all the rage among technophiles. But the medical establishment isn't necessarily on board — for starters, no insurance company will cover the cost, and doctors aren't always prepared to appropriately evaluate the results of a test. In an editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers concluded that the time for personalized genetic testing is "Not now — ask again in a few years." 23andMe, which was cofounded by Sergey Brin's wife Anne Wojcicki and counts Google as an investor, offers a test for the low, low price of $1,000. New startup Navigenics will do the same for $2,500. But they will only sequence a few known genes, there are a lot of caveats in the fine print, and there are serious privacy concerns. So what's the upside?

Stem cell breakthrough could mean biotech bucks for Bay Area

Paul Boutin · 11/23/07 08:39AM

Most passersby don't notice California Institute for Regenerative Medicine's austere signage tucked between Borders and Amici's on King Street, kitty-corner from the ballpark . And the San Francisco-based CIRM has struggled to turn its $3 billion in state funding into an active economic engine for the area. But a breakthrough by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (birthplace of The Onion) may enable mass production of stem cells from boring old skin cells, rather than by harvesting (read: killing) human embryos. There are still decades of research to be done before stem cells cure diseases. But this bodes well for the stable, science-driven future industry San Francisco leaders have long tried to jumpstart in Mission Bay.

Google founder's wife uncovers cucumber haters everywhere

Nicholas Carlson · 11/19/07 11:54AM

Google cofounder Sergey Brin's wife, Anne Wojcicki, cofounded and helps run a company called 23andMe. Since Google conveniently invested in 23andMe earlier this year, repaying a loan Brin made to the company, Google shareholders might want to keep a close eye on it to make sure everything is on the up and up. But according to this video from AllThingsD's Kara Swisher, there is no reason to worry. 23andMe is well on its way to answering the public's raucous demand for a service which will provide customers a way to find others who share their genetic traits. Traits like distaste for cucumbers, Wojcicki explains here. All this for only $1,000.

Google boys seriously in love with biotech

Owen Thomas · 11/14/07 08:27PM

What are Sergey Brin and Larry Page really obsessed about? Look no further than their choice in lifemates, says Attila Csordas. Sergey Brin married 23andMe cofounder Anne Wojcicki — and also lent the company $2.6 million, which Google repaid when it invested $3.9 million in the company. Larry Page's fiancée, Lucy Southworth, is close to earning her Ph.D. — a feat neither Page nor Brin has accomplished. Her field of study is biomedical informatics, a field which harnesses high-powered computing for biotech research. Larry and Sergey made their billions on online advertising, a business the pair openly despised when they created the Google search engine. The heart has its own code, and in Larry and Sergey's case, I think it's DNA base pairs.

How soon can I Google my date's DNA?

Paul Boutin · 10/19/07 12:31PM

J. Craig Venter is the scientist whose startup beat the government-funded Human Genome Project to mapping a single person's entire DNA. Whose DNA? Duh, Venter's! On the last morning of the Web 2.0 Summit, Venter brought the audience up to date on the faster-than-Moore's-Law advances in reading and writing genes.

Haha, I saw your mom's genes

Nick Douglas · 09/12/07 06:22PM

Say what you want about the alleged nepotism behind 23andme, but this genetics startup founded by Anne Wojcicki (recently married to Google co-founder Sergey Brin) sounds sweet. According to Forbes, clients send in a cheek swab, get back info on their DNA, including information on their ancestry and even distant relatives. I bet that sensitive information is behind a lot of security, right?

Stern man in cheap wig wants your DNA

Megan McCarthy · 09/05/07 04:40PM

Lord Justice Sedley, pictured here looking prim, has ruled that every person living in or visiting the United Kingdom ought to submit his or her DNA to a nationwide criminal database, to offset the presumed bias against "ethnic minorities" who make up the bulk of the existing database. Apparently, this guy is a high-ranking official in the United Kingdom's judicial offices, though you wouldn't guess that based on the ill-fitting getup. (Seriously, polyester hair is so ugh.) Note: An unnamed Valleywag colleague originally misread his name as Smedley, not Sedley. We are all in agreement that the Lord Justice should look into changing his surname for our greater amusement. He can skip the DNA sample, though.

Let's have Wired run the Valley

Nick Douglas · 06/29/06 10:11AM

Oh boy, another list! The ink has hardly dried on Business 2.0 Magazine's People Who Matter list, and Wired Magazine has already trumped it with the annual "Wired 40" list. While Business 2.0 is just playing Truman Capote, Wired's list is a de facto investment guide for the casual midwestern techie. Some highlights: