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Google’s New Interest in Biotech

Written by on Wednesday, May 23rd, 2007 Print This Post Print This Post

The biotech world is buzzing about Google’s newfound interest in biotechnology. 

Of course, if you pay attention at all to Bay Area news, you are likely aware of the fact that Google co-founder Sergey Brin just got married this past month to biotech entrepreneur Anne Wojcicki.  However, the latest news is that Google has now decided to invest in his wife’s start-up.

The New York Times reported:

Google said Tuesday that it invested $3.9 million this month in 23andMe, the biotech company co-founded last year by Ms. Wojcicki, a former health care industry analyst.

Google’s investment was disclosed in a regulatory filing, which also officially confirmed that Mr. Brin, 33, and Ms. Wojcicki are married. . . .

The filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission also stated that Mr. Brin had provided $2.6 million in interim debt financing to 23andMe and that his loan was being repaid as part of the financing of 23andMe.

“Our audit committee requested that we disclose this in order to be completely transparent with our investors about the facts underlying this investment,” said Jon Murchinson, a Google spokesman.

Mr. Murchinson said the search giant, which has invested in other start-ups, made the investment in 23andMe because it furthered Google’s goal of organizing the world’s information. “They are developing new ways for people to make sense of their genetic information,” Mr. Murchinson said.

Needless to say, Google’s new investment in biotechnology has caught the attention of the media as well as the blog world, and there is speculation that this step by Google signals a change in focus by the company. 

Blogger Mark McQueen writes in the  Seeking Alpha blog:

For all of the biotech entrepreneurs out there having a hard time raising an early financing round, Google might be your next roadshow stop.

According to the New York Times, Google invested US$3.9 million in 23andme. 23andme is in the genetics information business, which may well indicate that Google’s cookies are about to get dramatically more invasive into your personal affairs and web habits.

I can see the next generation of the permission form now: “By using Google’s web search technology, you agree and consent to provide a sample of your DNA to us for our own use.”

It will be interesting to see what Google has up its sleeve with this latest move.  Does this action signal a new focus by the company in biotechnology?  Or is this just a case of a company co-founder wanting to help get his new wife’s business off to a good start?  Those of us who follow news over at Google are watching with interest for the answer to those questions.

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