Biz & Tech // Business

23andMe lays off 14% of workforce amid slowdown in DNA testing market

23andMe, the Sunnyvale company that popularized direct-to-consumer DNA test kits, has laid off 100 employees — roughly 14% of its workforce — the company said Thursday.

The layoffs, reported first by CNBC, were concentrated in the division of the company that deals with consumer kits and did not affect the therapeutic division, which conducts research for drug development, said spokesman Andy Kill.

He declined to say how much the company is saving by conducting the layoffs or whether workers received severance packages.

23andMe was founded in 2006 and quickly became a darling in the field of consumer-facing genetic testing, to date raising more than $700 million from prominent investors including Google Ventures and Sequoia Capital.

The DNA tests, which are done by mailing in a small saliva sample, search for genetic variants associated with Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, breast cancer and other diseases. They have also been used to track down estranged or long-lost family members.

But growth in the DNA test-kits market slowed in 2018, co-founder Anne Wojcicki told the Wall Street Journal last year, citing consumers’ privacy concerns over the way tech companies like Facebook were using data, and how law enforcement used genealogy sites to solve crimes such as the Golden State Killer case.

23andMe declined to elaborate on the layoffs beyond Wojcicki’s remarks to CNBC, in which she said she was surprised to see the market start to turn and that the downsizing “has been slow and painful for us.”

The privately held company had a valuation of $2.5 billion as of 2019, according to Pitchbook.

Catherine Ho is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @Cat_Ho

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