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, deCODE genetics announced the launch of their consumer genotyping service, deCODEme.deCODEme is the first personal genomics company to launch, and will provide sequencing information about 1 million SNPs for the introductory price of $985.The service has two components:
1.The genotyping of ~1 million SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms, or personal differences in the genetic code), and;
2.A secured website for presenting the data obtained from the sequencing.
The official press release from the parent company deCODE genetics, contains some interesting information about the product:
“Through your subscription to deCODEme, you can learn what your DNA says about your ancestry, your body –traits such as hair and eye color– as well as whether you may have genetic variants that have been associated with higher or lower than average risk of a range of common diseases. This information will be continually updated as new discoveries are made.
“It is now possible for old customers of Relative Genetics to upgrade from 26 to 43 markers through DNA Heritage. This applies to customers for whom the DNA sample is already on file with Relative Genetics.
The cost for this test is just $75.”
If you were a customer of Relative Genetics and are interested in this opportunity, the upgrade offer is here.
Last week, the genomic start-up company Navigenics issued a press release introducing their team of advisors and investors, and announcing $25 million in financing. There was an accompanying story in the Wall Street Journal, “Is There a Heart Attack in Your Future?” According to the article, the tests that will eventually be offered by Navigenics have already been tested by at least one of the company’s co-founders:
“David Agus, a cancer researcher at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles who is a co-founder of the company, says he took the test and found he had a 68% risk of having a heart attack in his lifetime, compared with about 40% in the general population. His kids, he says, now help him stay away from French fries. “I’m a believer in empowerment,” he says.”
Yesterday, I looked at the size of the Genetic Genealogy market, and concluded that as of November 2007, there had been as many (or perhaps ‘at least’) 600,000 to 700,000 genetic genealogy tests performed, with 80,000 to 100,000 new tests per year. As the footnoteMavenmentioned, it might be interesting to see if we could turn those numbers into dollar amounts.
The following is a very rough attempt to translate the numbers into market value, with the following caveats: (1) I am not an economist, and I haven’t taken an economics class since high school; (2) the numbers do not take into account testing upgrades, which are offered by a number of companies; (3) the numbers do not take into account sequencing of the entire mitochondrial genome, specialized allele tests, or combination tests (e.g. Y-DNA and mtDNA) and; (4) the average cost of testing only reflects the companies included in yesterday’s accounting, and do not include the free SMGF test.
I was recently having a discussion with someone about the size of the genetic testing market, and I mentioned the number of people who had already paid for genetic genealogy testing. This oft-repeated number, 460,000, is the addition of two figures from a short 2006 EMBO article (“Genetic Genealogy Goes Global” EMBO 1072 (2006)):
“Companies such as Oxford Ancestors, Family Tree DNA and DNAPrint Genomics have attracted more than 300,000 customers in the past six years.”
“During the first 15 months of the five-year [Genographic] project, 160,000 people signed on, far more than had been anticipated.”
So, 300,000 + 160,000 = 460,000. A year later, however, these numbers are obsolete and I wanted to bring them as up-to-date as possible. To do this, I took the 2006 EMBO papers and scoured the internet for testing numbers revealed by any of the genetic genealogy testing firms. The results suggest that the current number is much higher than 460,000. My findings are below:
1.Oxford Ancestors, FTDNA, and DNAPrint Genomics = 300,000 up to November 2006. Although I am not certain of the accuracy of this number from the 2006 EMBO article, I decided to use it as a starting point.
David Hamilton at VentureBeat: Life Sciences recently wrote about the potential business plans of two popular genomic companies – Navigenics and 23andMe. It appears that the post was motivated by the recent article in Portfolio. David writes:
“Over the last few months, startups like 23andMe and Navigenics have attracted a fair bit of attention for promising to let ordinary people search through their own genomes to better understand their disease risk, genealogy and ancestry. One of the first major efforts to figure them out, however â€” courtesy of the November issue of Portfolio â€” left me with the distinct impression that these companies may not actually be anywhere near as revolutionary as they seem.”
There’s some discussion in the comment section, and David presents a number of links to the many previous articles he’s written about 23andMe and Navigenics.