Monday, July 07, 2008


This is kind of older news but I ran into a video of a presentation by 23andme to a tech audience at Google (I think). If you aren't aware 23andme is a personal genome analyzing company. Basically they analyze the SNPs in your genome and give you all the associations with those SNPs. For instance they will tell you your ancestry and what SNPs that you have are associated with particular diseases. There are some pretty interesting questions and an interesting look at the interface of how a costumer of 23andme's services would 'surf their genome.'
I guess that I could have also just found out all this stuff on the 23andme website.
I was actually impressed with what they do. Integration with Facebook ect. The security of the data that they collect was stressed, which would be important to me if I was a customer. Also I liked the point that personalized genetics and medicine has been moving too slow and they might be the solution to this. They also plan to share anonymous data for drug reactions and efficacies based on SNPs. This would probably be very valuable information assuming they get lots of customers.
This perhaps is the big problem with 23andme. The only SNPs looked at and the only genomic data collected at a statistically significant amount will be from customers who can afford the US$1000 price tag. Somehow I don't think my genetic relationship to African goat herders is going to be properly analyzed.


Kamel said...

I didn't watch the video, but I'd be curious to know how well the information they provide matches up with their promises. (for example a promise "Use 23andMe's Ancestry tools to find out whether your maternal lineage links you more closely to Marie Antoinette or Jesse James" sounds very specific, while it's probably more like 'your ancestry seems to be from geographical region X, therefore you're more closely related to celebrity Y')

I'd also be curious to know what kind of counselling services they offer. I would hope that promises like "23andMe can help you discover how your genes may affect your chances of developing various diseases and conditions, as well as traits such as athletic ability" would come with ample guidance as to how to properly interpret those results.

Rob said...

It seems they are definitely aware about the limitations of what they offer in terms of data interpretation.
Interestingly they are anticipating customers marching to their general practitioner and laying some SNP data on them and asking advice. This they argue is going to help jump start personalized medicine. They are not offering medical advice however just statistics. (which will undoubtedly be misinterpreted by many.)
In regards to the ancestry painting tool I think it's more sophisticated in that it tells you which parts of your genome is from which geographical area. So it can't be as simple as what you stated. ie you are not entirely from one particular geographical ancestry.