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:
“Houston is also home to Family Tree DNA, a company that offers the same services as Oxford Ancestors. Last year, Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates joined forces with Family Tree DNA to help African Americans looking for answers about their past. AfricanDNA, the company Gates launched in November 2007, offers both genetic testing and genealogical tracing services for African Americans.”
Yesterday I wrote about 23andMe’s decision to lower their price to $399 (down from $999) while adding more genealogically-relevant SNPs and partnering with Ancestry.com.Â Although I don’t have any further information about the new SNPs, I’ve seen a couple of interesting articles about the price drop around the blogosphere.
Aaron Rowe at Wired science writes “Human Genetics is Now a Viable Hobby.”Â He notes that the new price is “well within the reach of cash-strapped grad students, frugal genealogy buffs and other not-so-early adopters.”Â The comment thread is an interesting read as well.
23andMe just announced that the price of their service has dropped from $999 to $399.Â According to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, the company lowered the price of testing to attract more customers and increase the size of their database.Â The article maintains that 23andMe will still bring in profit from the lower membership price, which is made possible by a “new, higher-density gene-scanning chip made by Illumina Inc. of San Diego.”Â From the press release:
“The new Beadchip, called the HumanHap550-Quad+, makes use of a four-sample format. 23andMe also has added improved custom content to the new Beadchip, which will include a broader range of Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) variations and rare mutations not found on the previous Beadchip, thereby providing more relevant data on published associations, as well as maternal and paternal ancestry.”
Knome, a personal genomics company that launched within the past year, has just delivered the first genomic sequencing to customers according to a report in the MIT Technology Review.
After paying $350,000 for sequencing, customers receive their genetic sequence on an 8-gigabyte USB drive in an engraved silver box.Â The USB is encrypted and contains special genome browsing software.
For the first time in history, it is unclear how many complete human genomes have been sequenced by scientists.Â Prior to Knome, we knew exactly how many had been completed.Â Now, and probably ever after, genomes will be sequenced and analyzed without all the typical fanfare and press releases.Â Instead of just 2 or 3 genomes, there will soon be tens of genomes, then hundreds, and then thousands.
According to a 200-year-old family legend, Bettye Kearse – an African American – is the direct descendant of James Madison.Â Madison, of course, was a founding father and fourth President of the United States.Â As the story goes, he fathered a child name Jim with a slave cook named Coreen.Â For the past 4 years she and genetic genealogist Bruce Jackson of the Roots Project have tried to use DNA to prove or disprove a story passed through 5 generations of the family.
Unfortunately, Kearse and Jackson have been unable to obtain DNA samples from Madison’s descendants, stating that they have been “neither sincere nor forthcoming in this effort.”Â The president of the National Society of Madison Family Descendants, Frederick M. Smith, cited confidentiality concerns and declined to comment.
Yesterday, DNA Heritage issued a press release (reproduced below) regarding an opinion issued by the UK Intellectual Property.The opinion (available here) was the result of inquiry into whether claims 4-7 of a 2004 patent in England are valid.The patent, held by Bryan Sykes of Oxford Ancestors, was issued in 2004 and is directed at creating and using a database of Y-DNA haplotype information to examine surname relationships and determine the likelihood of common ancestry between individuals.The UK IPOâ€™s opinion holds that the claims are invalid because they are either not novel, or did not require an inventive step (i.e., they were obvious).Most intellectual property offices, such as those in the UK and the US, require that an invention at least be novel and nonobvious.
The eighth edition of the TGG Interview Series is with Max Blankfeld.Â Max is Vice-President of Marketing and Operations at Family Tree DNA, one of the largest genetic genealogy companies in the world.Â In addition, together with Bennett Greenspan, Max launched DNA Traits, a company that tests DNA for genetic diseases and inherited conditions.Â 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.
“Originally from Brazil, received his BBA from FundaÃ§Ã£o 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.”
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:
New Hope Medical
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.
For new readers of The Genetic Genealogist, 23andMe is a personal genomics company that offers a service to examine more than 600,000 SNPs throughout an individual’s genome. The information is then used to analyze ancestry (using Y-DNA and mtDNA) and to estimate propensity for disease. For much more info about 23andMe and similar companies, look under “Personal Genomics” on my Featured Articles page.
Today, 23andMe announced on their blog – The Spittoon – the winner of the company’s first ‘Win Your Genome Contest’. The contest was to describe Lilly Mendel, a publicly available but anonymous profile at 23andMe – based upon her genetic information alone. The winner was Mike Cariaso, who previously created a program that analyzes 23andMe SNP data using the growing SNPedia database.