Direct-to-consumer DNA testing company 23andMe, once a tech unicorn known for organizing "spit parties" featuring notable celebrities, is burning cash at an astonishing rate.
Its valuation, once breaking past $6 billion in 2021, has plummeted, the Wall Street Journal reports, with stocks selling at a measly 74 cents, a drop of 98 percent from its peak. The company has also gone through several rounds of layoffs in 2023.
All told, the one-time biotech darling's future is now looking uncertain.
For years, the company has been burning through the $1.4 billion 23andme CEO Anne Wojcicki raised, spending around 80 percent of it. That means, according to the WSJ's reporting, that the company could run out of cash as soon as next year.
Despite its massive popularity, the company has struggled to come up with a product that represents a consistent source of revenue. After all, a DNA test only has to be done once.
23andMe's efforts to get subscription services off the ground have faltered, bringing in far fewer customers than expected. Its drug development subsidiary, intended to discover drugs for diseases identified in a person's DNA, has yet to bear any fruit. Per the report, only two out of more than 50 drug candidates identified have entered early-stage human trials so far, and even for those it's unclear whether they'll actually work.
Last year, 23andMe also admitted that hackers had made off with personal information from 6.9 million customers.
DNA testing companies like 23andMe have also been criticized for giving up genetic data to law enforcement.
Wojcicki, an extremely well-connected name in Silicon Valley, has maintained an iron grip on her venture and has received tens of millions of dollars in payouts over the years. Her stock also gives her supervoting privileges, which means she has full control over the company.
But now that appetite for discovering one's genetic heritage has greatly diminished, the company's future is on thin ice.
"It was mildly interesting because of the ancestry information," Silicon Valley technology investor Bruno Bowden told the WSJ. "It powered a few cocktail conversations."
More on 23andme: Oops! 23andMe Admits Hackers Stole 7 Million Customers' Genetic Data