Analysis of the name ’23andMe’

23andme.pngAs you all know, I have high hopes for the genetic profiling company 23andMe. Although 23andMe has not officially launched a product available to the public, it turns out that the founders have chosen a great name for their company.
Nancy Friedman, a name developer and corporate copywriter based in Oakland, has written a lengthy analysis of the name ‘23andMe’ on her blog ‘Away with Words.’ She suggests that the name was deftly crafted and is even better than the oft-suggested name ‘46andMe.’ Ms. Friedman’s post is also the first place I’ve ever seen a pronunciation for Anne Wojcicki’s last name (which is wo-JIT-skee). Turns out I wasn’t too far … Click to read more!


The Personal Genome Project’s “First 10″

Here they are, the “First 10″, the first ten volunteers of the Personal Genome Project, announced today:

  • Misha Angrist, Ph.D. is Senior Science Editor at the Duke Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy in Durham, N.C. His work has appeared in The Michigan Quarterly Review and the Best New American Voices anthology, among other places. Dr. Angrist is also an independent consultant to the life sciences industry. He earned his M.S. in biology from the University of Cincinnati and his Ph.D. in genetics from Case Western Reserve University. His doctoral work focused on the complex inheritance of Hirschsprung disease. Following completion of his post-doctoral in 1998, Dr. Angrist covered the life sciences industry as an analyst for The Freedonia Group and was portfolio manager for the hedge fund Biotech Horizons Fund, LP. Dr. Angrist also holds a M.F.A. from the Bennington Writing Seminars. His firm, Ars Vita Consulting, Inc., provides insight to clients in the biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and broader healthcare arenas. For recent news by or about Dr. Angrist, see The New Atlantis and Future Medicine.
  • Keith Batchelder, M.D. is the founder and CEO of Genomic Healthcare Strategies. Dr. Batchelder received an MD from Hahnemann University School of Medicine, an MS in Materials Science from New York University, a DMD from the University of Connecticut School of Dental Medicine, and a BA in physics from Middlebury College. Dr. Batchelder has been a consultant for personalized health and wellness companies such as Lineagen and an officer in several health-care organizations. He was chief technical officer of Worldcare Clinical Trials, and was a core member of the team that created Harvard Salud Integral, a new HMO in Mexico City, where he helped secure angel funding in a newly privatized healthcare environment and helped to grow the plan to cover 150,000 patients. He was also an early principal with Amicas, a company that was successfully sold for approximately $30 million cash and stock equivalents. For recent news about Dr. Batchelder, see Nature, Mass High Tech, and an interview with our own EyeonDNA!
  • George M. Church, Ph.D. is a Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School and Professor of Health Sciences & Technology at Harvard and MIT. With Walter Gilbert he developed the first direct genomic sequencing method in 1984 and helped initiate the Human Genome Project in 1984 while he was a Research Scientist at newly-formed Biogen Inc. He invented the broadly-applied concepts of molecular multiplexing and tags, homologous recombination methods, and DNA array synthesizers. Technology transfer of automated sequencing & software to Genome Therapeutics Corp. resulted in the first commercial genome sequence, (the human pathogen, Helicobacter pylori) in 1994. He initiated the Personal Genome Project (PGP) in 2005 and research on synthetic biology. He is director of the U.S. Department of Energy Center on Bioenergy at Harvard & MIT and director of the National Institutes of Health (NHGRI) Center of Excellence in Genomic Science at Harvard, MIT & Washington University. He has been advisor to 22 companies, most recently co-founding (with Joseph Jacobson, Jay Keasling, and Drew Endy) Codon Devices, a biotech startup dedicated to synthetic biology and (with Chris Somerville) founding LS9, which is focused on biofuels. He is a senior editor for Nature EMBO Molecular Systems Biology. See the Boston Globe, Technology Review, his departmental page, his lab webpage, and our very own PersonalGenome.
  • Esther Dyson is an active member of a number of non-profit and advisory organizations. From 1998 to 2000, she was the founding chairman of ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. She has followed closely the post-Soviet transition of Eastern Europe, and is a member of the Bulgarian President’s IT Advisory Council, along with Vint Cerf, George Sadowsky, and Veni Markovski, among others. She has served as a trustee of, and helped fund, emerging organizations such as Glasses for Humanity, Bridges.org, the National Endowment for Democracy, and the Eurasia Foundation. She is also a member of the board for The Long Now Foundation, trustee for the Santa Fe Institute, the Advisory Board of the Stockholm Challenge Award and is a part-owner of the First Monday journal. She is a member of the President’s Export Council Subcommittee on Encryption and sits on the boards of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Scala Business Solutions, Poland Online, Cygnus Solution, E-Pub Services, Trustworks (Amsterdam), IBS (Moscow), iCat, New World Publishing and the Global Business Network. She is on the advisory boards of Perot Systems and the Internet Capital Group, and a limited partner of the Mayfield Software Fund. She has also been a board member or early investor in tech startups, among them Flickr, PowerSet.com, ZEDO, Medscape, Medstory, XCOR, Constellation Services, Zero-G,Icon Aircraft and Space Adventures. Ms. Dyson is the daughter of Freeman Dyson, a physicist, and Verana Huber-Dyson, a mathematician. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in economics from Harvard University (1972). For recent news about Ms. Dyson, see The Huffington Post, Media Visions, MediaPost, and The Wall Street Journal.
  • Rosalynn Gill-Garrison, Ph.D., is a founder and Chief Science Officer of Sciona, an international company that provides personalized health and nutrition recommendations based on an individual’s diet, lifestyle and unique genetic profile. Dr. Gill-Garrison is also on the panel of experts at Genelex. Dr. Gill-Garrison received her Ph.D. in Biological Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin, where she focused on the DNA-damaging effects of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in animal and bacterial models. She went to the UK in1994 to the Department of Oncology at University College London before co-founding Sciona in 2000. For recent news about Dr. Gill-Garrison, see Time, MedScape, The Scientist, and the BBC.
  • John D. Halamka, M.D., M.S., is Chief Information Officer of Harvard Medical School, Chief Information Officer of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Chairman of the New England Health Electronic Data Interchange Network (NEHEN), Chief Information Officer of the Harvard Clinical Research Institute (HCRI), and an Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Halamka completed his undergraduate studies at Stanford University where he received a degree in Medical Microbiology and a degree in Public Policy with a focus on technology issues. Dr. Halamka received a medical degree at the University of California San Francisco while pursuing graduate work in Bioengineering at the University of California, Berkeley, focusing on technology issues in medicine. For recent news about Dr. Halamka, see The Boston Globe, BIDMC News, Yahoo Finance News, a podcast about health information exchange, and a newscast about online medical records.
  • Stanley N. Lapidus, B.S.E.E., is the President and CEO of Helicos, a company that develops genetic analysis technologies for research, drug discovery, and clinical diagnostics markets. Helicos is Mr. Lapidus’ third life-science startup. In 1995 he founded EXACT Sciences Corporation, an applied genomics company that develops and markets non-invasive, DNA-based methods for early detection of colorectal and other common cancers. He served as the CEO from 1995 to 2001 and Chairman of EXACT Sciences’ Board of Directors from 2000 until the end of 2005. Prior to EXACT, Mr. Lapidus founded Cytyc Corporation and was President and CEO from 1987 through 1994. In addition to his entrepreneurial activities, Mr. Lapidus holds academic appointments in the Pathology Department at Tufts University Medical School and MIT’s Sloan School of Management. He earned a BSEE from Cooper Union. He has served as a trustee of Cooper Union since 2002. Mr. Lapidus holds 30 issued patents. For recent news about Mr. Lapidus, see Flagship Ventures, MarketingVP, The Hazelton Group, and Technology Review.
  • Kirk M. Maxey, M.D. is the President of Cayman Chemical, a research biochemical company he started while still a student. After receiving his B.S. in Chemistry from Colorado State University, Dr. Maxey worked as a chemist at the Upjohn Company in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He later received his M.D. from the University of Michigan. Dr. Maxey has been a consultant and expert witness for Alcon and Pfizer as well as a contributing editor and reviewer for Prostaglandins and Other Lipid Mediators. While a student in the 1980′s, Dr. Maxey was a frequent contributor at sperm banks. contributed For recent news about Dr. Maxey, see PBS and ABC News.
  • James L. Sherley, M.D., Ph.D. was formerly an associate professor in the Biological Engineering Division at the Center for Environmental Health Sciences in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He earned an M.D. and a Ph.D. in molecular biology from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 1988. Dr. Sherley’s laboratory addressed the problems that limit the development of adult stem cells for biomedicine. Dr. Sherley’s awards include the 2006 NIH Director’s Pioneer Award, an award from the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences, selection for the Pew Science and Society Institute, and the Ellison Medical Foundation Senior Scholar Award in Aging. For recent news about Dr. Sherley, see Future Health, Boston.com, Diverse Education, The Chronicle, and Boston.com.

The 10th participant has not yet given permission for the release of his/her name. From the … Click to read more!

Finnish Genealogy and Evolution


There’s a great recent article in Scientific American entitled “What Finnish Grandmothers Reveal about Human Evolution” highlighting the research of biologist Virpi Lummaa. I’ve mentioned before that while genetics is a useful tool for genealogical research, genealogy can also be a useful tool for genetic research! Dr. Lummaa’s research does exactly that.
Dr. Lummaa used 200 years of genealogical records to study the influence of evolution on reproduction”
“The 33-year-old Finnish biologist, aided by genealogists, has pored through centuries-old tomes (and microfiche) for birth, marriage and death records, which ended up providing glimpses of evolution at work in humanity’s recent ancestors.”
Dr. Lummaa proposes the following findings from her … Click to read more!


Esther Dyson and the “First 10″

Esther Dyson is a prominent force in the digital world, and is considered to be a member of the ‘digerati’ (a term for people who are the movers and shakers of everything technological). She is the daughter of the famous physicist Freeman Dyson and the mathematician Verana Huber-Dyson.
According to Wikipedia, the company that Ms. Dyson founded, EDventure Holdings, analyzes the impact of emerging technologies and markets on economies and societies. In addition, Ms. Dyson is on the board of the genetics company 23andme. Her interest in genetics and emerging technology is undoubtedly one of the main reasons she has decided to become one of the “First 10.”
The “First 10”
The “First 10” (or “First Ten”) references ten volunteers who are part of the … Click to read more!


Interesting DNA News

Some interesting posts about DNA and/or genetic genealogy in the blogosphere:

  • Anthropology.net posted about an article by Freeman Dyson, ‘Our Biotech Future‘ in which Dyson “embarks on a fascinating discussion on a range of topics including how biology is now bigger business than physics, and how he believes that over the next 50 years, biotechnology will revolutionise our lives in much the same way same way as computers have done over the previous 50 years.

While I was exploring Dr. Watson’s SNPs, I began to realize just how far we have to go before a list of SNPs provides useful or insightful information. When is a SNP more than just a simple mutation? When does a SNP mean more than just a propensity for disease? It will undoubtedly take many more lists and much more research before science can answer these question.

(Nonetheless, it would still be exciting to see a list of my SNPs, even without the useful … Click to read more!


DYS464 and Male Infertility

Dr. Mark A. Jobling at the University of Leicester published a study in 2005 that examined DYS464, a Y-DNA marker commonly sequenced for genetic genealogical purposes. As it turns out, sequencing DYS464 can inadvertently detect an AZFc deletion. Deletion of AZFc (azoospermia factor c) causes spermatogenic failure and subsequently, male infertility. This marker is tested by at least 6 firms.
Dr. Jobling pointed out that a previous study had concluded that an AZFc deletion could be found in 1 in every 4000 males. In Dr. Jobling’s study there were 3 cases in 3255 males tested, which he states is “not significantly different from 1 in 4000.” A story in the New Scientist stated that “a study by Jobling’s team suggests that 1 in 1000 men has the deletion,” … Click to read more!


The Measure of a Woman (or a Man)

My great-grandmother belongs to Haplogroup H, and I always feel a little bad for her. Not that I have anything against Haplgroup H’ers, but they got the short end of the stick. You see, currently all mtDNA sequences are compared to the Revised Cambridge Reference Sequence (rCRS), an mtDNA sequenced derived in the early 1980’s and recently updated. Since the source of most of the mtDNA for that sequence belonged to Haplogroup H, people who belong to Haplogroup H often have no deviations at all and their sequencing results tend to be a little boring. Imagine if your mtDNA testing company sends your results and they say: “You belong to Haplogroup H, and your deviations from the rCRS are as follows: 0.” You see, a little dull.
Comparing … Click to read more!


The Qilakitsoq Mummies

A recent paper in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology examined mtDNA extracted from the hair and nails of eight Inuit mummies. These essentially freeze-dried mummies were discovered in 1972 in a natural tomb at Qilakitsoq in the Uummannaq Municipality of Greenland. Using C14 analysis, the mummies have been dated to approximately 1460.

The bodies were found in two separate positions about 1 meter apart. In Grave I, there were five bodies:

  1. I/1 = Male Infant #1 – about 6 months of age
  2. I/2 = Male Infant #2 – about 4 to 4.5 years of age
  3. I/3 = Female #1 – about 20-25 years of age
  4. I/4 = Female #2 – about 25-30 years of age
  5. I/5 = Female #3 – about 40-50 years of age

In Grave II, there were 3 bodies:

  1. I/6 = Female #4 – about 50 years of age
  2. I/7 = Female #5 – about 18-21 years of age
  3. I/8 = Female #6 – about 50 years of age

The researcher’s primary goals were to sequence the HVR1 region of each individual’s mtDNA, and then to compare the results to determine possible relatedness of the remains. All 8 individuals fell into Haplogroup A2, but belonged to three different maternal lineages which were … Click to read more!

The Copernican Principle

I saw a recent article in the New York Times, “A Survival Imperative for Space Colonization” that grabbed my attention. I know it isn’t necessarily related to DNA, but I loved the article and the essence behind it, The Copernican Principle.
The Copernican Principle, is named after Nicolaus Copernicus, who stated that the Earth is not in a central, specially favored position. Although it might look like our galaxy is the center of the Universe, observers in all other galaxies would observe the same thing. This idea has been applied to the field of statistics. For example, if you are observing something and your location is not special, then you are observing the thing at a random point during its existence. That is, there is a 95% chance that you are seeing it in the middle 95% of its existence, and … Click to read more!