Anne's background is in healthcare investing, focused primarily on biotechnology companies. Anne left the investing world with the hope that she could have a positive impact on research and medicine through 23andMe. From her vantage point, Anne saw a need for creating a way to generate more information - especially more personalized information - so that commercial and academic researchers could better understand and develop new drugs and diagnostics. By encouraging individuals to access and learn about their own genetic information, 23andMe will create a common, standardized resource that has the potential to accelerate drug discovery and bring personalized medicine to the public. Anne graduated from Yale University with a B.S. in biology.
Question: What have you learned from watching the birth of Google?
Anne Wojcicki: I think that the moral values and the ethics that Google has definitely influence. I think, once again, Larry started the company, they weren’t in it for the money. They started it because they really wanted to create something that; one, they wanted, and two, they thought was going to change the world. And I think that that really held up with 23andMe where we say all the time, we’re not here just to be – it would be very easy for us to say, oh we just want to be another kind of diagnostic company, we come out with something very simple. We really want to change the landscape. Every single day, we want to take on the hard problems. We don’t want to just find a solution and make money and leave it at that. We really want to keep evolving and take on those hard problems. So, I think that Google has been really inspiring in that way in that even all these things that they are doing, I am continuously impressed by the challenges that they take on. And I hope that the same thing happens with 23andMe.
Question: What drives your enthusiasm these days?
Anne Wojcicki: I think the amount of information. I think we are definitely suffering from an information overload, but I believe that there is going to be better and better ways of organizing that information and processing it so that it will enhance your daily life. So even things we were playing – we were having this habit of once a week I’ll go through on Google Earth and fly into a different city. And we have this large monitor at home and it’s amazing resolution and I was in Tibet in 2000 and I could just walk around the streets. And it’s things like that. Now that I have a small child and I can’t travel as much, that’s phenomenally interesting for me, it’s fun. And I think that’s how information and technology just are going to impact our lives more and more on the personal and on the fun side, and more and more I think also on the serious. I think on the medical side I’m really excited about radiology. There’s a conference in Chicago every October and the stuff that is happening in radiology is fascinating. And the stuff you can do with imaging. I just think that technology and information, it’s overwhelming at the moment, but it’s really going to make life better.
Question: What keeps you up at night?
Anne Wojcicki: To be honest, since being a new mother, my biggest concern becomes the health. If I was diagnosed with something that was fatal in the next couple of years, I can’t imagine anything more terrifying. And so for me, we know a lot about technology and we know a lot about the world, but I think health is the one area where there’s so much data, but it’s chaotic and that it’s still a big black box. So, understanding really what is going to make me healthy and what is going to allow me to live the longest life is definitely keeps me up.
Recorded on September 30, 2009