One of the first customer genetic testing companies, 23andMe says it aims to be at the forefront in assembling genetically diverse data throughout the world.
The company merely launched a standalone $99 pedigree service today as a route to offer those interested in their genetic ancestry the ability to tracing ancestors and relatives just by spitting into a tube.
Ancestral DNA is something founder Anne Wojcicki says is very popular on the platform and is a good introduction to genetics in general. And, adds Wojcicki, the market for this product is global because everyone in the world potentially wants to know about where they come from.
However, the companys pedigree reports have been roundly criticized for a lack of good genetic the necessary data for diverse populations around the world. Euny Hong wrote a review at Quartz in which she discovered her genetic info came from a mere 76 Koreans, for example.
23andMe says it is making an effort to get more people of color on the platform with the launch of several programs. This spring the company introduced a project called Roots into the Future to gather genetic info from African American populations. 23 andMe also helped money the Human Genome Diversity Project and tells it currently has two projects underway in Africa to increase thediversity of its pedigree composition data, as well.
But the burden shouldnt sit squarely on 23 andMe. In fact, much of the sampling being implemented in genetic identification has been from Europeanpopulations 96 percent of the time, according to a reportfromthe National Center for Biotechnology Information.
And there are repercussions to smaller genetic samples , not only in trying to convince an increasingly diverse population to buy your product worldwide, but in health research in general. A larger sample yields a much better chance of detecting genetic markers for diseases and in getting the research right.
23andMe pointed out in a blog post titled The Real Issue: Diversity in Genetics Research a heart disease analyze that, due to biased research, concluded African Americans were more likely than whites to carry a mutant putting them at risk for the heart condition known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, when they actually are not more likelyto have the mutation. Proper genetic research could weed out these biases, but we need a broader scope of data from more and diverse populations to get there.
23andMe says it conducts its own research for much of personal data it currently provides but the company will need those participating in the public is take the next step.
A good example of what 23 andMe hopes to see more of is a recently announced Nevada genetic population analyze. The Nevada government took it upon itself to offer thousands of its citizens a free test that will examinehealth, population, genetic and environmental data.
Of course, Nevada is largely white and hispanic.But Wojcicki has high hopes others will join in to help close the gap.
Theres an amazing opportunity out there by leveraging the power of some of these big groups to bring together all these individuals and their medical record and create a community that is really going to transform individualized medication and personalized medicine and be a research powerhouse, she told TechCrunch.
For those interested in contributing a little bit of their DNA in exchange for ancestral datum you can go here to order your kit.
The ancestry product was initially part of the overall package be submitted to clients, which also includes health data. Customers will now have the option of opt only the ancestry package or the health and ancestry combination.