That Celebrity Interview: 23andMe COVID-19 with Joyce Tung

By Valder Beebe
Columnist

In the Valder Beebe Show studio, I conducted a Q&A with Joyce Tung, Ph.D. – Vice President, Research at 23andMe. I focused on a new study: Could Genetics Play a Role in the Severity of COVID-19? While a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University, Joyce studied the genetics of mouse and human pigmentation. She earned her Ph.D. in Genetics from the University of California, San Francisco, where she was a National Science Foundation graduate research fellow.

This Q&A is valuable as the new study: Could Genetics Play a Role in the Severity of COVID-19? 23andMe is looking for individuals who’ve recovered from COVID-19 hospitalizations to participate in a new study. To help gather more insights, 23andMe has launched a research study to help determine whether genetics may play a role. 23andMe’s unique research model, with millions of customers consenting to participate, offers their scientists a powerful tool for potential insight into the role genetics may play in explaining differences in the severity of the novel coronavirus. 

Scientists around the world are racing to understand COVID-19 and the novel coronavirus that causes the disease. Among the questions they’re asking: why do most people who are infected show mild to moderate symptoms (or possibly no symptoms at all), whereas others develop a severe form of the disease?

Encouraged by the overwhelming interest (with more than 400,000 existing 23andMe customers already enrolled to participate, including several thousand who’ve confirmed they had the virus), 23andMe is opening enrollment to people who have been hospitalized with the disease but are not currently customers. Opening up the research to individuals with more severe symptoms will increase their ability to learn how genes may play a role in the severity of this disease. Text provided by Joyce Tung’s publicists in conjunction with the Valder Beebe Show 

VBS: The role genetics may play in explaining the difference and severity of the disease, how can that be? 

JT: We have seen in past studies looking at different infectious diseases, that there are genes that are associated with the susceptibility to and severity of the disease. For example, we have found in other studies that genes associated with our immune system can be involved with influencing the severity of the disease.

VBS: How does the 23andMe scientist use this unique platform to find answers? Then what happens to this data? 

JT: Our research platform, people can take part in the safety and comfort of their own home. We take their genetic information and answers to their survey questions i.e. ‘have you been diagnosed with COVID-19’, and we put those together to understand how DNA influences disease. We find something out, we share data findings with the scientific community. 

For Joyce Tung’s full interview: click here

Find more THAT CELEBRITY INTERVIEW at valderbeebeshow.com, youtube.com/valderbeebeshow, soundcloud.com/valderbeebeshow, 411RadioNetwork, PChatman Network and VBS affiliate broadcasters.

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