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Telehealth: ‘There’s a real opportunity’ for investment, 23andMe founder says

23andMe Co-Founder and CEO Anne Wojcicki sits down with Yahoo Finance’s Anjalee Khemlani at the HLTH conference to discuss the slowdown in growth, consolidation in the health care space, the company’s partnership with GSK, drug discovery, and more.

Video transcript

AKIKO FUJITA: Welcome back to Yahoo Finance Live. Anjalee Khemlani, our very own, had a chance to sit down with 23andMe co-founder and CEO, Anne Wojcicki, at the HLTH Healthcare Innovation Event in Las Vegas. They spoke about everything from the explosion of telehealth to 23andMe's partnership with GSK. Take a listen.

ANNE WOJCICKI: This conference is spectacular. And I think it's spectacular because of the display of breadth of companies, the creativity, the talent pool. Like, a lot of impressive brainpower and a lot of capital has gone into sort of next generation health. And having been-- like, decade-- 15 years ago, we went to a conference called Health 2.0, and it was almost like this precursor of this conference. And it was a very different story. It was a different story with the talent, the ideas, the opportunities. And so I think it's spectacular here.

That said, we're obviously in a market environment where there's parts of me that, like, raises my eyebrows of, like, but who is funding all these companies? Like, there's so many ideas. So I do think that there's this-- like, I look around and think, like, OK, well, when is consolidation happening? When-- some of these companies have to get scale. Like, the reality is to have a real impact in healthcare, you need to get scale.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Well, scale is something you know a lot about because I know that's what you've been focused on in the last few years. And you understand that various aspects of healthcare are important. You can't just have sort of a one-man band with just the kids.


ANJALEE KHEMLANI: You need more than that. So with the explosion of telehealth, you've also bought into that. You're also working on partnering with GSK in order to develop your own immunotherapy. So talk to me about that process and maybe what advice you would give some of these younger startups right now who are just entering the game.

ANNE WOJCICKI: I think the advice I would give is that people have to start to think about how can you get size and scale. And I think that there's a real opportunity for companies to start to combine. I think it's one thing-- in the early days, 23andMe was early in this sort of consumer and the tech world. And it took us a long time to get the kind of scale that we have now. And I think with scale, everything changes.

And that's part of the reason why we bought a telehealth company and part of the reason why we are doing drug discovery now, is we look at there's this incredible opportunity of actually engaging the consumer and engaging the consumer to actually have the kind of healthcare that they want that's not about what's going to reimburse or what's going to actually make the most money, and when is there a return on investment of helping you prevent diabetes, just like, actually, what's the best for you?

And so that's the whole idea for us on, when we did the Lemonaid acquisition and we are providing telehealth services now, really, about, like, what is it that we can do that's genetic based that is going to help you be as healthy as possible? And we can do that now at scale with 13+ million people who have their genetic information. And that's what we're really looking, like the size and type of impact that we can have.

On drug discovery, there's an incredible opportunity to really change the drug discovery process. And you look at right now, drug discovery is often small numbers. It's incredibly expensive. It's a high failure rate. And 23andMe has this opportunity to leverage the genetic insights, so all the research that we do. And you know that if you use genetics for drug discovery, you're twice-- two to three times more likely to be successful.

So we look at 23andMe as this ability to, like, really integrate an individual on how they can access, understand, and eventually benefit from the human genome. And it's about getting access to your genetic information, understanding it, working with the healthcare world to actually get the most out of it, and then eventually benefiting by being healthy longer, as well as potentially having therapies that are going to be personalized and tailored to you that have a genetic foundation.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Well, talk to me about that because it's interesting that you are focusing on that scale because in order for you to be able to achieve that, don't you kind of rely on the segmentation and on the competition that's out there right now?

ANNE WOJCICKI: What do you mean?

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: So in order to acquire Lemonaid and work with them and also to partner with GSK, there have to be that many players in order for you to partner with and work with. And that relies on the various players that are out there in order for you to be able to do what you do, versus having to deal with one of the bigger monopolies.

ANNE WOJCICKI: Yeah, I mean, we-- I mean, part of it is like, I look at, like, right now, there's no-- if I understand the question correctly, like, there's no single dominant player in telehealth. And I think that's where, like, from a customer perspective, we have 13 million people who have their genetic information who are eager to do more. We could have partnered with a smattering of different telehealth providers, but we decided there's this opportunity for us to actually really acquire and then-- and train those healthcare providers on genetic information, and then to scale that.

AKIKO FUJITA: That was Yahoo Finance's Anjalee Khemlani with 23andMe co-founder and CEO, Anne Wojcicki.