23andMe and mondoBIOTECH announced at Davos (the World Economic Forum in Switzerland) today that they will work together to further the study of rare diseases.Â According to the press release (below), mondoBIOTECH will identify individuals suffering from certain rare diseases and sponsor their enrollment in the 23andMe Personal Genome Serviceâ„¢.Â Researchers will use the information collected to learn more about the potential causes of these rare diseases.
Linda Avey appeared on CNBC this morning to discuss the company and the partnership â€“ see â€œIt’s All in the Genes.â€
The Press Release:
Davos, Switzerland â€“ January 28th 2009 â€“ 23andMe, Inc., an industry leader in personal genetics, and Mondobiotech AG, a Swiss research company dedicated to the development of treatments for rare diseases, today announced at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that they are collaborating to advance research of rare diseases.
Last September, I interviewed Colleen Fitzpatrick here at TGG.Â Colleen has been very busy since then!Â She has launched a new website called Identifinders, which offers a number of forensic genealogy services.
Additionally, Colleen was featured in “Does Publishing Need Genealogists?” by Publisher’s Weekly for her work in researching the circumstances surrounding two recent publishing cases: Misha Defonseca’s Misha: A Memoire of the Holocaust and Herman Rosenblat’s Angel at the Fence. From the article:
Their research uncovered baptismal and school records proving that Defonseca didn’t escape the Holocaust by running with wolves. She didn’t need to; her father was a Nazi collaborator. And if Defonseca had denied the evidence, Fitzpatrick and Sergeant were prepared to use DNA, which, along with photographs and archival records, are a forensic genealogist’s stock in trade. â€œI almost feel disappointed that Misha confessed,â€ wrote Fitzpatrick on her IdentiFinders.com Web site. â€œI was looking forward to identifying her through DNA.â€
I’ve long been interested in the success and long-term outlook of the genealogy market.Â Although altruistic genealogists have done immense amounts of work to transcribe and put records online, one of the strongest forces behind the digitization of genealogical records has been private profit-driven organizations.Â And these organizations, of course, rely on the viability of the market.
FTM Media Kit
Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings recently linked to Family Tree Magazine’s 46 page 2009 Media Kit, which contains extensive information about the genealogy market and the Family Tree Magazine audience.Â The report is filled with statistics about all facets of genealogy and genealogists, and the author(s) include links to all their primary information.
Although I can hardly hope to introduce or discuss these recent events any better than Daniel MacArthur has already given at Genetic Future, I will at least bring this new information to your attention.
Last Wednesday the New York Times printed â€œMy Genome, My Selfâ€, an article written by Stephen Pinker, one of the Personal Genome Projectâ€™s â€œFirst 10.â€Â In the article, Pinker talks about his experience with genome sequencing through the PGP.Â It is especially interesting since Pinker analyzes the issue from the point of view of a psychologist.Â I highly recommend reading this article if you are at all interested in personalized medicine or genetics.
Much of the article discusses the confusing results that are returned by genome/disease analysis, due to our current lack of understanding in this enormous field:
Image via Wikipedia
I’m currently in the middle of third-year law school exams, so I thought I’d do a round-up of all the interesting stories I’ve seen over the past week or two.
Holiday Specials on DNA Testing
First, it appears that most of the major genetic genealogy companies are offering special deals for the holidays:
Family Tree DNA announces a holiday sale – FTDNA is offering reducing pricing for customers who are part of or join a DNA project. For example, a 37-marker Y-DNA test is reduced to $119, down from $149.
Ancestry.com announces holiday sale – buy a DNA test between now and December 31st, and you’ll receive 40% off. For example, a 33-marker Y-DNA test is $89.40 (usually $149) and their mtDNA test is $107.40 (usually $179).
Similar to a move made by myHeritage a few weeks ago, Familybuilder has announced that it will offer genetic genealogy testing to its customers.Â As part of the launch of this new product, Familybuilder is offering both Y-DNA and mtDNA tests for only $59.95 until January 1.Â After that, the price will be $89.95
Based on the demo account, it looks like the Y-DNA test includes 17 markers.Â Although this isn’t many markers, $3.52 per marker is a great price.
Familybuilder is planning to continue to develop their genetic genealogy offering: “Currently in development is the ability to create Groups around surnames, families, and other criteria as well as the ability to Compare DNA.”Â From the press release:
â€œUp to now, genealogical DNA testing for the masses has been cost-prohibitive,â€ said David Rheins, CMO of Familybuilder.Â â€œWe are excited about the launch of Familybuilder DNA, and believe that this tool will help millions of consumers better understand the origins of their heritage and ancestry. We are very focused on developing the Familybuilder DNA product line, and have plans to roll out additional tests and future functionality, including the ability to search our DNA database to identify living relatives with whom you share DNA.â€
Image by Valerie ReneÃ© via Flickr
Family Tree DNA has a new issue of Facts & Genes available on their website.Â If you didn’t receive this newsletter but would like to receive it in the future, you can register here.
I especially like the “Case Study in Genetic Genealogy”, which is reprinted in full below.Â I, like others, sometimes jump too quickly to the conclusion that there has been a non-paternal event in a line.
Case Study in Genetic Genealogy
When I [“I” being a hypothetic someone who has tested through a genetic genealogy company] first tested, I had no matches with my surname, and a match with another surname. I was told that there was an event in the past, breaking the link of the Y chromosome and the surname – an illegitimacy.
As the Guardian reported today in “Genealogy website MyHeritage offers low-cost DNA tests“, Family Tree DNA and MyHeritage have formed a partnership to combine DNA testing with online family trees.Â From the press release:
“With close to 220,000 records, FamilyTreeDNA is the largest database of genealogic DNA information in the world. This provides the perfect complement to MyHeritage’s current research tools, giving our members another way to learn about where they come from,” said Gilad Japhet, founder and CEO of MyHeritage. “We help people around the world discover, connect and communicate with their extended family network and easily research their family history. Now, by working with FamilyTreeDNA, we can offer a solution when the paper trail runs out.”
Security of genetic information is an enormous concern for individuals, and thus an enormous concern facing commercial genetic enterprises.Â I was recently having a conversation with someone about the security of genetic and personal information at companies such as 23andMe and Navigenics, and I pointed out that the very livelihood of these organizations depends on their ability to secure information.Â A single security breach could potentially drive away future customers.
On that topic, Ryan Calo, a residential fellow at Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet & Society writes about a panel discussion held at the law school (pdf poster here):
“With a credit card and a saliva sample, consumers can now unlock the secrets carried in their DNA. Consumer genomics offers direct access to one’s genetic code, plus interpretations of health risks, family lineage, opportunities for social networking, and more. But how should consumer genomics be regulated? Join us for a panel discussion with leaders at the forefront of consumer genomics (23andme and Navigenics), media commentators (Alexis Madrigal from Wired), and policy makers.”
Old 23andMe logo via CrunchBase
The latest issue of TIME Magazine lists the top 50 inventions of 2008, and the invention of the year is the Retail DNA Test.Â The article is mostly about the product currently offered by 23andMe.Â From the article:
“We are at the beginning of a personal-genomics revolution that will transform not only how we take care of ourselves but also what we mean by personal information. In the past, only Ã©lite researchers had access to their genetic fingerprints, but now personal genotyping is available to anyone who orders the service online and mails in a spit sample. Not everything about how this information will be used is clear yet â€” 23andMe has stirred up debate about issues ranging from how meaningful the results are to how to prevent genetic discrimination â€” but the curtain has been pulled back, and it can never be closed again. And so for pioneering retail genomics, 23andMe’s DNA-testing service is Time’s 2008 Invention of the Year.”