Yesterday, 23andMe provided an update on its blog (see “23andMe Provides An Update Regarding FDA’s Review”) about how it will respond to the FDA’s recent warning letter. In a nutshell, the company will continue to sell the same Personal Genome Service (“PGS”) kits, but new customers will only have access to ancestry-related genetic information and tools, and to their raw data. No health-related information will be provided, for now. Existing customers will continue to have access to all tools, including health-related information.
I’ll note that this is exactly what I predicted would happen in my blog post about the FDA warning letter (see “The FDA Orders 23andMe to Stop Marketing Medical Tests”). You heard it here first! It’s really the most logical approach while 23andMe communicates with the FDA.
Understanding the complexities of autosomal DNA can be very challenging for newbies.
However, there are a few basic tenets that I believe can help these newbies. These tenets are essentially tools that newbies can use to analyze an autosomal DNA problem for themselves.
For example, here are the two very basic tenets that I typically introduce in my autosomal DNA lectures especially for the newbies:
- You only have to go back about 5 generations to start losing ancestors from your Genetic Family Tree.
So many of the issues that newbies run into can be resolved or prevented through understanding of these concepts.
The Coop Lab
The lab of Graham Coop, an associate professor in the Department of Evolution and Ecology at UC Davis, maintains a blog where they often discuss genetics. Today they published an interesting blog post entitled “How much of your genome do you inherit from a particular ancestor? In the post, they perform a handful of different analyses using data they had for one generation of transmissions which was compounded over multiple generations.
In 1991, German tourists in the Alps discovered the mummified remains of a man who died approximately 5,000 years ago. Named Ötzi, the remains have been studied extensively and have revealed a wealth of information about life in this region.
Of note to genetic genealogists, Ötzi’s DNA has also been the subject of extensive analysis. In February 2012, sequencing of Ötzi’s full genome was announced (see here and here) which revealed, among other things, that the Iceman probably had brown eyes, belonged to blood group O, and was lactose intolerant. He may also have had Lyme disease, as the genome of the infectious agent Borrelia burgdorferi was also identified in the sequencing effort.
Ötzi’s Y-DNA belongs to a subclade of Haplogroup G defined by the SNPs M201, P287, P15, L223 and L91 (G-L91). As far as I know, he has not yet been typed for any of the subclades downstreaming from G-L91. More information can be found at the G-L91 page of the Haplogroup G Project, and elsewhere online.
23andMe and co-founder Anne Wojcicki are featured in the cover story of the November issue of Fast Company entitled “Anne Wojcicki Is The Most Daring CEO In America.”
Accompanying the cover story are a number of different online articles, including the following:
Article #1 – “Inside 23andMe Founder Anne Wojcicki’s $99 DNA Revolution” by Elizabeth Murphy (not her real name – it was changed to protect the identity of her adopted daughter, who 23andMe testing revealed has an extremely high propensity for Alzheimer’s disease)
Article #2 – “Behind the Scenes of the Ad Campaign for 23andMe’s $99 DNA Test” – a brief look at how 23andMe is trying to recruit 1 million new customers. The article features a handful of tv spots, and reveals that many of the actors took a 23andMe test.
There has been a great deal of coverage this week of the new patent issued to genetic testing company 23andMe. U.S. Pat No. 8,543,339 is entitled “Gamete donor selection based on genetic calculations” and is directed to methods for predicting traits for a child based on the DNA of candidate parents, and selecting a preferred donor based at least in part on the prediction.
Some of the coverage (including an editorial in Genetics in Medicine) has suggested that the methods are “hugely ethically controversial” and “‘GATTICA’-like,” and could lead to a “design-your-own-baby DNA test” and “designer babies.” Another popular genetic genealogy blogger, Roberta Estes, also addressed the patent on her blog earlier this week (“23andMe Patents Technology for Designer Babies”).
Published today at MATTER is “Uprooted,” an in-depth look at genetic genealogy and DNA testing. The article contains numerous quotes from several names you’ll recognize, including CeCe Moore and me. Much of the story focuses on genealogist Cheryl Whittle and her roller-coaster quest to find her biological roots using DNA testing. From the preview of the roughly 10,000 word article:
“In Issue 11 of MATTER, award-winning writer Virginia Hughes tells Cheryl’s story, and describes how the twin revolutions of the internet and DNA testing have turned genealogy into a privacy minefield. After all, your genetic code is as personal as it gets — yet thanks to the web, you are no longer the only person who gets to control it.”
At Salon, an article entitled “The college class that could reveal your real father” by Katya Cengel discusses a course at Stanford called “Genetics 210.” The class uses [entirely optional] 23andme testing to explore the many issues associated with genetic testing. Although the class is offered to both graduate and undergraduate students, the class is filled with mostly graduate students.
All students go through the informed consent process carefully, and have access to a genetic counselor and a psychiatrist (although according to the report not a single student has contacted the psychiatrist in the four semesters the course has been offered, and only two have contacted the genetic counselor).
The most interesting aspect of the article, to me, was the complication that identical twins pose to genetic testing. Epigenetic differences aside (which are currently NOT tested), a genetic test for one will directly apply to the other. So what happens when one twin wants to know and the other doesn’t?
DNATraits, a division of Houston-based genomics and genetics testing company Gene By Gene, Ltd., (parent company of Family Tree DNA) just announced a press release regarding today’s decision in Association for Molecular Pathology, et al. v. Myriad Genetics, Inc. patent case regarding the human BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes
From the press release:
Supreme Court Ruling Today Allows DNATraits to Offer Low Cost BRCA Breast and Ovarian Cancer Gene Testing in U.S.
In effort to increase access to potentially lifesaving BRCA1 and BRCA2 tests, DNATraits can now offer tests for $995, a fraction of the cost of similar tests prior to the court decision
HOUSTON — Jun. 13, 2013 – Thanks to today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision opening the door to greater access to genetic medicine by American patients and their health care providers, testing for genes specifically linked to breast, ovarian and other cancers will now be more widely available and at a lower cost than ever before.
According to an article posted today at AllThingsD (“23andMe Names Former Gilt Exec Andy Page as President“), personal genetics company 23andMe has created a new position within the company, that of President, and has filled the position with Andy Page. Page is a former President and CFO of Gilt, an online retail enterprise. He left that position earlier this year (see “Gilt’s President And Former CFO Andy Page To Leave The Company“).
From the article by Kara Swisher:
The reason for the addition, said CEO and co-founder Anne Wojcicki, is to push for more customer growth — 23andMe is trying to reach one million members by the end of the year — and the scaling of its operations.
Page, who will report to Wojcicki, will be in charge of a wide swath of 23andMe, including product and engineering, marketing, finance, business development, laboratory operations and legal and regulatory issues. He will also be tasked with helping develop business strategy.
So here I am, sitting at the airport waiting for my first flight on the long journey back to NY from the first ever Family History and DNA Day at the Southern California Genealogy Society Jamboree.
The event was an incredible success, with stellar speakers, inspiring and entertaining talks from Spencer Wells and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and excellent organization and execution.
Below is just a brief summary of the highlights I believe are worth mentioning, but be sure to check out other posts that have or will come out soon, including this one from The Legal Genealogist, and this one from Dick Eastman.
(A side note: as I was sitting in the airport waiting for my flight from Newark to San Francisco, I looked up and saw a familiar face – Judy Russell from The Legal Genealogist! We shared the next two flights, although Judy was furiously dealing with an unfortunate hack attack on her website, which has since been resolved).