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23andMe Offers $99 Genetic Testing At Home

In previous articles, we discussed how the rapidly decreasing cost of DNA testing is enabling companies such as Foundation Medicine to offer genetic analysis that can help identify targeted oncology therapies.  In fact, Steve Jobs spent $100,000 to discover the genetic basis of the cancer that killed him and famously said: “I’m either going to be one of the first to be able to outrun a cancer like this, or I’m going to be one of the last to die from it.” One company offering DNA test services to the general public is 23andMe.

About 23andMe

Click for company website

Founded in 2006, Mountain View California based 23andMe began offering DNA testing services to the public in 2007. According to Crunchbase, the company has taken in around $161 million so far in funding backed by among others, Genentech, Google Ventures, Johnson and Johnson, Yuri Milner, and Google co-founder Sergey Brin whose wife Anne Wojcicki co-founded 23andMe.

Product Offering

Using a simple saliva test which you mail to the company, 23andMe then examines the most important 1 million snips of your DNA which it then uses to analyze various attributes including ancestry, genealogy, and inherited traits. According to this article by TechCrunch, the most recent funding round has allowed the company to offer their testing service at a price point of $99 as opposed to the original pricing of $999. With that price, you receive 244 health reports along with genetic ancestry information. As of December 2012, the company had conducted DNA profiling on 180 thousand clients with the goal to reach 1 million by 2013.  An article on Singularity Weblog tests the product and walks the reader through the entire process. The results of the test provide the client with a rich information set, some of which can be seen below:

Source: Singularity Weblog

Source: Singularity Weblog

According to this same article, “the predominant opinion is that genes determine only about 20-30% of health outcomes while the other 70-80% are a result of your environment and life choices such as nutrition, sleep, and stress patterns, physical activity, etc.” While the resulting findings are fascinating, the low probabilities would leave one to question just how accurate the information could be in predicting the future. 23andMe continues to advance their product offerings and just last week was issued a controversial patent as follows:

Patent #8,543,339 grants 23andMe exclusive rights to genetic and computer technologies that would enable prospective parents to handpick a sperm or egg donor with whom they would be likely to produce a child born with certain traits that they desire.

Controversy aside, 23andMe has an attractive price point for their product and the more users they can enroll, the more information sets they have to analyze which should further improve the richness of their reports. With the surge in biotech IPOs this year, 23andMe may see a liquidation event sooner rather than later.

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(Update: As of 2015, 23andMe re-released FDA approved genetic health tests along with their existing genetic ancestry test offering and increased the price to $199. Please see our most recent article on the new 23andMe test).

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