Anne Wojcicki, the co-founder and CEO of the personal genomics company 23andMe, has made contributions to the field of biotechnology. Her company has influenced the healthcare industry by giving the general public access to their genetic information.
Roots and Early Education
Born in 1973 in Palo Alto, California, Wojcicki’s background influenced her entrepreneurial journey. Raised by Esther Wojcicki, an educator and journalist, and Stanley Wojcicki, a physics professor at Stanford University, she grew up on Stanford’s campus. She has two older sisters, Susan Wojcicki, former CEO of YouTube, and Janet Wojcicki, an anthropologist and epidemiologist.
Wojcicki’s interest in biology began in high school and continued at Yale University, where she earned her bachelor of science degree in 1996. Following graduation, she conducted molecular biology research at the National Institutes of Health and the University of California, San Diego.
Transition into Health Care and Business
After university, Wojcicki moved into the health care sector, working as a health care consultant at Passport Capital, a San Francisco-based investment fund, and at Investor AB. She spent four years as a health care investment analyst, focusing on biotechnology companies. Later, she turned her attention to biological research.
23andMe: Personal Genomics
Wojcicki co-founded 23andMe in 2006 alongside Linda Avey and Paul Cusenza. The company provides DNA testing kits to consumers, offering insights into ancestry, health risks, and genetic traits. In 2008, Time magazine named the company’s personal genome test kit as “Invention of the Year.”
“It’s been 13 years since we started the company. Thousands of customers have reached out to tell us how 23andMe has changed their lives and, in some cases, saved them. Our mission—to help people understand and benefit from the human genome—continues to be our guiding light. I feel that we’re just getting started,” Wojcicki states in an article for Harvard Business Review.
In 2013, 23andMe received a cease-and-desist letter from the U.S. FDA, challenging its direct-to-consumer genetic test. While the company had previously operated in a regulatory gray area, the FDA now required proof of the test’s validity and that untrained consumers could understand results. The company collaborated with the FDA, changed its core infrastructure, and after rigorous testing and studies, gained FDA authorization for multiple genetic tests. Wojcicki believes that this period helped 23andMe improve its product. The company continues its research, including a study in 2020 to examine potential genetic factors related to Covid-19.
Impact and Recognition
Wojcicki’s contributions to the field of genomics have been recognized by various entities. Fast Company named her “The Most Daring CEO” in 2013. As of 2020, Forbes listed her among the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women.
“I am most proud of our legacy of advocating for individuals to have direct access to the test. I believe that people of all education levels are capable of being in charge of their own health. By being direct-to-consumer and affordable, we have enabled millions of people to learn about their DNA and their health risks, which has helped them take actions to prevent disease,” Wojcicki remarks.
Outside of her professional achievements, Wojcicki is involved in her local community in the downtown business district of Los Altos, California and is known for her investment in the sustainable growth of the area.