Remember, you heard it here first! The Houston Chronicle appears to have advance news that two companies, Family Tree DNA and Seqwright, are planning to launch products that will analyze DNA for genes associated with disease, similar to services offered by 23andMe and deCODEme. The news is casually mentioned in a news story published yesterday in that newspaper, and on one of the paper’s blogs.
In the first article, “Public Can Get Genes Tested“, there is a quote from Bennett Greenspan, president and chief executive of Family Tree DNA:
“[FTDNA is] betting that public demand will soar for health testing as well, despite the skepticism of some physicians. Greenspan said Family Tree will begin testing for specific disease genes in a month or two. ‘We’ve been peppered with requests from customers for this kind of service during the last 18 months,’ he said.”
Genizon BioSciences, a private firm in Quebec with about 135 employees, has been awarded $31 million from the Dutch venture capital firm Biotechnology Turnaround Fund to uncover associations between genes and diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s.
There are a number of companies concentrating on the correlation between genetics and disease, but the reason that Genizon BioSciences stood out to me is the source of the DNA that the company studies. Genizon uses DNA from descendants of the Quebec Founder Population. This population began with roughly 2,600 individuals who settled Quebec between 1608 and 1760 (although more than 15,000 French had immigrated to Quebec in this period, the vast majority continued to travel westward across Canada) and is estimated to be over 6 million people today. Genizon uses this unique population for a number of beneficial reasons, including:
Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak, one of the founders of Roots Television and the author of Megan’s Roots World recently released a screencast of her husband’s deCODEme results at “A First Look at deCODEme DNA Results.” Megan is the Chief Family Historian of Ancestry.com and is co-author of Trace Your Roots With DNA, and thus is both extremely interested in genetic genealogy and aware of the limitations of this type of DNA analysis. The 17-minute review includes a brief look into the different aspects of deCODEme’s analysis, including health and ancestral information.
VortexDNA today announced the launch of myDNAchoice, a website and Firefox extension aimed at mapping the DNA of “human intention” to help users map their interactions with the internet. Nick Gerritsen, a director of VortexDNA, believes that “this includes better search results, meeting people like you, letting people find you on your favourite sites, and much more–without ever compromising your privacy.”
Although it is a bit confusing, myDNAchoice is a browser tool to help users organize the web based on their interactions with the internet, both previous (reflected in the short survey taken at installation) and future (new surveys taken through time). This browser tool, the company asserts, may result in as much as a 14% increase in search relevancy as compared to Google Search.A user begins by installing the mywebDNA Firefox extension in Firefox:
Three weeks ago, 23andMe launched their personal genome service. In the meantime, the launch has prompted a great deal of discussion. Additionally, a few of the earliest customers have already received their results. Here are links to some of the most interesting posts regarding 23andMe’s service.
To Be or Not to Be: 23andMe
LaunchSquad received their 23andMe kit in the mail, causing them to ponder the benefits, considerations, and services involved in genetic testing.After introspection, they decide to spit and mail.
Know Your Genes, Know Your Future
GeneratedMadness decides that the benefits of 23andMeâ€™s service outweighs the potential negatives.
I Like The Way You Stink
Mark Brooks at Online Personals Watch has already received the results of his analysis.
Dr. Moran at Sandwalk brought to my attention a recent segment about genetic genealogy on Marketplace called â€œWhoâ€™s Your Grand Daddy?â€Marketplace is a Canadian television program.In his post, Dr. Moran states:
â€œI’m disturbed by the fact that we have a number of prominent bloggers pushing DNA testing. You’d think they would be all over this story. You’d think that they would be in the front lines in the attack on unscrupulous private companies who are overselling the idea of tracing your ancestors through your DNA.If you thought that you’d be wrong. Some of these bloggers are even denying there’s a problem.â€
During the Marketplace segment, Johnna – a woman they interview who is interested in learning more about her ancestry – discovers that she belongs to Haplogroup H.Unfortunately, Johnna had expected to learn more about her ancestry, such as the names of ancestors.It would appear that Johnna did not do any research about genetic genealogy.
On November 27th, the personal genome sequencing company Knome (pronounced like â€œGnomeâ€, the mythical creature) officially launched.From the companyâ€™s press release:
â€œâ€˜Whole-genome sequencing is the endgame,â€™â€ according to Mr. Conde [Knomeâ€™s CEO]. â€˜It will enable us to look at nearly 100% of your genetic code compared to the less than 0.02% currently available on SNP chips. This is the approach that most fully reveals what our genomes can tell us about ourselves.â€™â€
â€œPricing for Knomeâ€™s service will start at $350,000, including whole-genome sequencing and a comprehensive analysis from a team of leading geneticists, clinicians and bioinformaticians. This team will also provide continued support and counseling.â€
It’s not a whole-genome scan or a genetic genealogy test, but it’s still a DNA test from the drug store shelves. Soon you will be able to purchase a paternity test from Rite-Aid.
The test is being offered by Sorenson Genomics. According to an article from Monday’s New York Times:
“A company called Sorenson Genomics has started selling a paternity test kit through Rite Aid stores in California, Oregon and Washington. It appears to be the first time a DNA test is being sold through a major pharmacy chain.”
“The test, sold under the brand name Identigene, has a suggested list price of $29.99, though a reporter purchased one at a Rite Aid in Santa Monica, Calif., for $19.99. There is an additional laboratory fee of $119 to have the samples analyzed.”
Hereâ€™s the question: Do people really make â€œlife-changingâ€ decisions based upon the results of a genetic genealogy test?This phrase is often stated but is seldom supported with actual facts or case studies.And Iâ€™ve certainly never seen an estimated percentage of people who have made these types of â€œlife-changingâ€ decisions, which would really help further the discussion.
Earlier this month, Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. announced the launch of his new genetic genealogy company, AfricanDNA.com. According to the press release, â€œthe precedent-setting site is the only company in the field of genetic genealogy that will provide African Americans with family tree research in addition to DNA testing.”
I have written a lot about the Mountain View based personal genome start-up company 23andMe (February 14th, April 9th, June 19th, July 31st, and September 13th, to name a few).As a matter of fact, if you google â€œ23andMeâ€, The Genetic Genealogist is the second result.
Today, announced by an article in the New York Times (â€œMy Genome, Myself: Seeking Clues in DNAâ€) and Wired (â€œ23andMe Will Decode Your DNA for $1000.Welcome to the Age of Genomicsâ€), 23andMe has officially launched.
If you visit 23andMe, youâ€™ll notice that the site has been completely revamped, and they are now accepting orders for their Personal Genome Service, for $999.
So what does 23andMe offer?According to the companyâ€™s Genotyping Section: