Feb 5, 2021

Biotech firm 23andMe to go public via Richard Branson SPAC

William Smith
2 min
23andMe is just one of a raft of biotechnology solutions that have emerged to provide consumers access to genetic testing technology
23andMe is just one of a raft of biotechnology solutions that have emerged to provide consumers access to genetic testing technology...

Sunnyvale, California-based DNA testing and analysis biotech company 23andMe has announced a plan to go public via a merger with Virgin Group’s VG Acquisition Corp.

The merger with the special purpose acquisition company is expected to close during the second quarter of this year, valuing 23andMe at approximately $3.5bn.

The company said the transaction would allow it access to the capital necessary to fund its growth, with 23andMe CEO and cofounder Anne Wojcicki and Virgin Group’s Sir Richard Branson investing $25mn each.

“Of the hundreds of companies we reviewed for our SPAC, 23andMe stands head and shoulders above the rest,” said Branson. “As an early investor, I have seen 23andMe develop into a company with enormous growth potential. Driven by Anne’s vision to empower consumers, and with our support, I’m excited to see 23andMe make a positive difference to many more people’s lives.”

23andMe is just one of a raft of biotechnology solutions that have emerged to provide consumers access to genetic testing technology. Usually combining both ancestry and health information, 23andMe skews towards the latter side of the equation, providing reports about an individual’s predisposition to certain health conditions.

Creating a research database

Ethical questions have been raised about the use of the data gleaned from individuals. 23andMe says that 80% of its customers choose to have their genotypic and phenotypic data entered into a database for genetic research, with the company having 30 programmes in areas including oncology and cardiovascular diseases.

“We have always believed that healthcare needs to be driven by the consumer, and we have a huge opportunity to help personalize the entire experience at scale, allowing individuals to be more proactive about their health and wellness. Through a genetics-based approach, we fundamentally believe we can transform the continuum of healthcare,” said Wojcicki.

(Image: 23andMe)

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Jul 26, 2021

China announces 6-month campaign to clean up apps

2 min
China’s crackdown on tech companies seems to be expanding as the country’s industry minister launched a six-month campaign to clean up internet apps

A 6-month campaign has been announced by China’s industry minister, to clean up what it says are serious problems with internet apps violating consumer rights, cybersecurity and “disturbing market order.” 

In an online notice the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said that, among other things, companies must fix pop-ups on apps that deceive and mislead users or force them to use services they might not want.

The order is all part of a wider effort to crack down on tech industries and police use of personal information. Authorities have recently ordered fines and other penalties for some of China’s biggest tech companies.

Earlier this month, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) ordered online stores not to offer Didi's app, saying it illegally collected users' personal data. The company’s shares have now fallen by more than 40% since making its New York Stock Exchange debut on 30 June.


The latest campaign in the tech crackdown


The ministry launched this latest campaign with a teleconference call on Friday and issued its 15th list of dozens of apps it has said require fixing on Sunday. 

There are 22 specific scenarios it has said require ‘rectification’, among which the ministry mentioned pop-up windows as a specific problem, especially when all the screen of a pop-up window is a jump link with a false close button.

Other various problems it highlighted were threats to data security due to a failure to encrypt sensitive information while it is being transmitted, and failure to obtain users' consent before providing data to other parties; and malicious blocking of website links and interference with other companies products or services. 

It also took aim at illegal broadband networks, which it called “black broadband" that failed to conform to website filing procedures or might be subletting or using illegal access to networks.

Regulators have been stepping up enforcement of data security, financial and other rules against scores of tech companies that dominate entertainment, retail, and other industries.


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