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TGG Interview Series VIII – Max Blankfeld

image The eighth edition of the TGG Interview Series is with Max Blankfeld.  Max is Vice-President of Marketing and Operations at Family Tree DNA, one of the largest genetic genealogy companies in the world.  In addition, together with Bennett Greenspan, Max launched DNA Traits, a company that tests DNA for genetic diseases and inherited conditions.  Max is a frequent contributor to genetic genealogy mailing lists and has answered many people’s questions about testing, results, an the field in general.

From the “About” page at Family Tree DNA:

“Originally from Brazil, received his BBA from Fundação Getulio Vargas, and MBA from Rice University. While his first college education was in the field of Aeronautical Engineering, he gave it up to become a foreign correspondent. After that, he started and managed several successful ventures in the area of public relations as well as consumer goods both in Brazil and the US.”

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The Tenth and Final PGP Volunteer is Revealed!

image Thomas Goetz has written another terrific article about genetic testing and the Personal Genome Project.  This article, entitled “The Gene Collector,” appears in Wired Magazine.  The article provides some new information about the PGP, including some of the incredibly detailed phenotype information that will be collected from the next 100,000 volunteers in the project.

The article also reveals the tenth and final participant of the “First 10″, the original 10 volunteers in the PGP.  I wrote about the first nine volunteers in the PGP almost exactly one year ago and noted that the tenth participant had not yet released his or her name.  The Wired article, however, mentions a number of participants including George Church, Esther Dyson, Rosalynn Gill, John Halamka, and Steven Pinker.  Indeed, a check of the PGP website confirms that Steven Pinker is the last PGP volunteer to be identified.

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TGG Interview Series VII – Katherine Hope Borges

image The next interview in the TGG Interview Series with members of the Genetic Genealogy field is with Katherine Hope Borges.  Katherine is the Director of the ISOGG, the International Society of Genetic Genealogists.  In June of last year, I highlighted a video interview with Katherine done by Roots Television.

In addition to the her work with the ISOGG, Katherine recently launched DNA Fund to provide scholarships and funding for DNA testing, which can often be expensive.

In the following interview, Katherine talks about her introduction to genetic genealogy as well as the launch of DNA Fund.

TGG: How long have you been actively involved in genetic genealogy, and how did you become interested in the field?

Katherine Hope Borges: I learned about genetic genealogy in 2003 from a speaker at a Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) meeting.  The speaker, a DNA Project Administrator, shared her success in using DNA for genealogy so I decided to try it.  My father tested in May 2003 and I established a DNA project in October of the same year.

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The Genetic Mess in California – A Round-Up, and My Thoughts

On June 9, 2008, the California Department of Public Health sent cease and desist letters to 13 companies that offer genetic testing. According to the letters, the companies are in violation of certain sections of the Business and Professions Code of California, including offering “a clinical laboratory test directly to the consumer without a physician order” since such tests “must be ordered by a physician or surgeon” (according to these officials). Copies of the letters are available here. The companies receiving letters are:

  • 23andMe
  • CGC Genetics
  • deCODEme Genetics
  • DNA Traits
  • Gene Essence
  • HairDX LLC
  • Knome
  • Navigenics
  • New Hope Medical
  • Salugen
  • Sciona Inc
  • Smart Genetics
  • Suracell Inc

I’m entering this discussion late, although I’ve been watching with great interest. What I’ve noticed is that much of the discussion, both in the blogosphere and the media, is confusing or ignoring the fact that there are actually two questions involved here.

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Sequencing the Cacao Tree Genome

Although it’s not really genetic genealogy, this story was too interesting to pass up.

Mars food company announced on Friday that it is partnering with IBM and the Department of Agriculture to sequence and analyze the entire cocoa genome.Mars will provide more than $10 million and will make the sequencing and analysis results freely accessible through the Public Intellectual Property Resource for Agriculture.

Unfortunately for those of us that love chocolate, the cacao tree is under attack.According to an article in the Washington Post, “West Africa, which produces 70% of the world’s cocoa, has been hammered by bad weather in the past few years.”Additionally, the cocoa industry in Brazil has been almost completely destroyed by a fungus known as witches’ broom.

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TGG Interview Series VI – Ann Turner

Ann Turner has been a member of the genetic genealogy community since 2000, and during that time she has made great contributions to field (as will become obvious from her interview). According to her brief biography at the Journal of Genetic Genealogy:

Ann Turner is the founder of the GENEALOGY-DNA mailing list at RootsWeb and the co-author (with Megan Smolenyak) of “Trace Your Roots with DNA: Using Genetic Tests to Explore Your Family Tree.” She received her undergraduate degree in biology in 1964 and her M.D. from Stanford University in 1970. In recent years, she developed software for neuropsychological testing and wrote utility programs for the PAF genealogy program. One of these utilities provided a way to split out all people in a database who were related via their mitochondrial DNA, six years before mtDNA tests were commercially available. The inspiration for this feature came from the (then) forward-looking predictions of Dr. Thomas Roderick, now associate editor of JoGG.

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TGG Interview Series V – Whit Athey

The name Whit Athey is undoubtedly very familiar to many genetic genealogists. Whit’s Haplogroup Predictor, used to predict an individual’s paternal haplogroup based on DNA test results, is one of the most valuable online (and FREE) tools for genetic genealogists.

Among Whit’s many contributions to the field, he is also the Editor (and frequent contributor) of the Journal of Genetic Genealogy. From his biosketch:

“Whit Athey is a retired physicist whose working career was primarily at the Food and Drug Administration where he was the chief of one of the medical device labs. He received his doctorate in physics and biochemistry at Tufts University, and undergraduate (engineering) and masters (math) degrees at Auburn University. For several years during the 1980s, he also taught one course each semester in the Electrical Engineering Department of the University of Maryland. Besides his interest in genetic genealogy, he is an amateur astronomer and has his own small observatory near his home in Brookeville, MD.”

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TGG Interview Series IV – Alastair Greenshields

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Today’s interview is with Alastair Greenshields, founder of the genetic genealogy testing company DNA Heritage. Alastair is also the founder of Ybase, a Y-DNA database. I recently wrote about a helpful and informative video series by Alastair for DNA newbies (see “New Videos for Genetic Genealogists“).

In today’s interview, I ask Alastair about his introduction to genetic genealogy, some of the ethical issues raised by the recent launches of personal genomics companies, and about the future of genetic genealogy.

TGG: How long have you been involved in genetic genealogy, and how did you become interested in the field? Have you undergone genetic genealogy testing yourself? Were you surprised with the results? Did the results help you break through any of your brick walls or solve a family mystery? You founded DNA Heritage in 2003. What led you to create the company? Can you also tell us a little bit about Ybase?

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Interview Series III – Terry Barton

imageTerry Barton is co-founder of WorldFamilies.net (along with Richard Barton), a website devoted to helping genealogists host Surname, Geographic, or Haplogroup Projects and learn more about genetic genealogy. When I began the Bettinger Surname DNA Project, Terry helped me through the entire process of setting up the site. From the WorldFamilies website:

“Terry is co-founder of WorldFamilies.net, President of the Barton Historical Society (BHS) and Co-Leader of the 193 member Barton DNA Project. He is the “Line Leader” for the Thomas (1,2,3) Barton family of Stafford Co VA and for the David Barton married Ruth Oldham family. He has made a number of presentations about using DNA in Genealogy, the Barton DNA project and his great-grandparent’s “Barton House” and has written many articles for the BHS Newsletters and website.”

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