From genomic testing to telehealth and prescription delivery is quite a swerve. Or a pivot, as they say. 23andMe, the richly financed (via a February SPAC with Virgin Group) and valued ($4.8 billion market cap) DNA tester, originally marketed to trace ancestry and analyze for health information, announced the acquisition of Lemonaid Health. A telehealth company that markets their quick diagnosis of conditions such as mental health, erectile dysfunction, thyroid, and sinus infections with fast delivery of medications, it’s quite a changeup for 23andMe, at least on the surface.
But, as this Editor opined as far back as 2018 in advocating a Genomic Bill of Rights and revisited in 2020, consumer genetic testing for the above as a model was finito just before the pandemic started. (When was the last time you saw a formerly lederhosen-clad actor trumpeting their new kilt or imagining their connection to famous dead people?) There were plenty of questions about the ethics of consumer-driven genomic testing as practiced by 23andMe and Ancestry.com. Consumers found it difficult to opt-out of how their genomic data was being used commercially, and understanding if it was being protected, as it likely was not.
The real gold for 23andMe is, of course, selling all that data to pharmaceutical companies. So in that context, Lemonaid, as really a marketer of meds, is not the stretch that it seems on the surface. But, there’s more. For 23andMe, which has consistently covered its cake of business aims in a thick and sticky icing of customer-focused mission, from their blog and signed by CEO Anne Wojcicki: “We are acquiring Lemonaid Health so that we can bring true personalized healthcare to 23andMe customers. Personalized healthcare means healthcare that is based on the combination of your genes, your environment, and your lifestyle — with recommendations and plans that are specific to you.” Meanwhile, Lemonaid, widely advertised online and on TV with quick telehealth consults, brings in the cash.
The transaction was announced at $400 million in a cash and stock deal, with 25% of the total deal value in cash and the rest in shares. Paul Johnson, CEO and co-founder of Lemonaid Health, will become the General Manager of the 23andMe consumer business and will continue to run Lemonaid Health. Ian Van Every, Managing Director, UK and also a co-founder, will manage and grow UK operations. According to Crunchbase, total investment in Lemonaid was a relatively small $57.5 million in five rounds since 2015, up to a Series B. Release. Reuters