The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, known in shorthand as GINA, is federal legislation that would prohibit insurance companies from discriminating against an applicant based on genetic information, the refusal to submit genetic information, or for have been genetically tested in the past. The Act, if passed, would also prohibit employers from using or collecting genetic information to make employment decisions. I wrote a GINA Primer in April, if you’re interested in learning more about the Act (here’s the full text of the legislation). The Act, which is currently a bill before the Senate, easily passed the House of Representatives (97% voted aye), and President Bush has said that he would sign the bill into law if it reaches his desk.
I have written a lot about the Mountain View based personal genome start-up company 23andMe (February 14th, April 9th, June 19th, July 31st, and September 13th, to name a few).As a matter of fact, if you google â€œ23andMeâ€, The Genetic Genealogist is the second result.
Today, announced by an article in the New York Times (â€œMy Genome, Myself: Seeking Clues in DNAâ€) and Wired (â€œ23andMe Will Decode Your DNA for $1000.Welcome to the Age of Genomicsâ€), 23andMe has officially launched.
If you visit 23andMe, youâ€™ll notice that the site has been completely revamped, and they are now accepting orders for their Personal Genome Service, for $999.
So what does 23andMe offer?According to the companyâ€™s Genotyping Section:
Today, deCODE genetics announced the launch of their consumer genotyping service, deCODEme.deCODEme is the first personal genomics company to launch, and will provide sequencing information about 1 million SNPs for the introductory price of $985.The service has two components:
1.The genotyping of ~1 million SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms, or personal differences in the genetic code), and;
2.A secured website for presenting the data obtained from the sequencing.
The official press release from the parent company deCODE genetics, contains some interesting information about the product:
“Through your subscription to deCODEme, you can learn what your DNA says about your ancestry, your body –traits such as hair and eye color– as well as whether you may have genetic variants that have been associated with higher or lower than average risk of a range of common diseases. This information will be continually updated as new discoveries are made.
“It is now possible for old customers of Relative Genetics to upgrade from 26 to 43 markers through DNA Heritage. This applies to customers for whom the DNA sample is already on file with Relative Genetics.
The cost for this test is just $75.”
If you were a customer of Relative Genetics and are interested in this opportunity, the upgrade offer is here.
Edward Ball is the author of Slaves in the Family, which won the National Book Award for Nonfiction in 1998. Mr. Ball’s latest book is the subject of this review-by-proxy (I haven’t read it myself, so I’ll be sharing what others have said).
The new book, The Genetic Strand: Exploring a Family History Through DNA, is reported to “intrigue America’s many amateur genealogists and also serve as a cautionary tale.” The book follows Ball’s journey through his family’s genetic genealogy after he discovers locks of hair in an old family desk.
Megan Smolenyak reviewed the book over a week ago at Megan’s Roots World with “The Genetic Strand: Slightly Disappointing.” Megan’s review brings up a number of points, including Ball’s failure to provide some essential information (like his family tree). One of the most interesting critiques, which was also criticized by a review in the New York Post, surrounds the following paragraph:
Forty advanced placement science students at Soldan International High School in St. Louis have submitted their DNA for testing with the National Geographic Society’s Genographic project. An article in the St. Louis-Post Dispatch highlights some of the statements made by the students and faculty:
“Many times students don’t see the relevance of what they’re learning,” said Assistant Principal Alice Manus, the Soldan project coordinator. “What they’re learning here will have all sorts of relevance because, really, we’re looking into their lives.”
One student, named John, had more reason to be excited about this test than most – his father died when he was only 13. “I never knew him that well,” said the Soldan sophomore. “Maybe this will tell me more about who he was and where he came from.”
Update: Ugo Perego is not affiliated withh the website mentioned in the last two sentences.
Did Joseph Smith father children with any of his plural wives? The Deseret News has a lengthy article about recent efforts by a geneticist to answer the long-debated question about the founder of the Latter Day Saint movement.
Ugo Perego, the director of operations at the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation, has used genetic genealogy in an attempt to identify or rule out potential descendants of Smith. In 2005, Perego showed that three males were not descendants of Smith, and new testing has shown that two more alleged descendants of Smith are not his true descendants.
In order to rule out descendants, it was first necessary to characterize the Y-DNA thought to belong to Joseph Smith. According to the article:
The 24-7 Family History Circle has an update on a story I wrote about few weeks ago (Chris and Alex Haley’s DNA). Chris Haley, the nephew of author Alex Haley, recently agreed to submit DNA for a Y-DNA test. Like his uncle, Haley is very interested in genealogy and his ancestry.
According to the article, which was written by Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak, the Haleys were already fairly certain of their ancestry: “to the best of the familyâ€™s knowledge, the progenitor of the Haley line was of European origin, not African.” Indeed, the results show that the Haley Y-DNA belongs to Haplogroup R1b, a traditionally European haplogroup. My favorite part of this article, and one that many of my readers might find interesting, are all the suggestions regarding future directions that Haley can take to learn more about his ‘roots’ (sorry, I had to). Interestingly, Haley already has an anonymous 46-marker match in the DNA Ancestry database.
Last week, the genomic start-up company Navigenics issued a press release introducing their team of advisors and investors, and announcing $25 million in financing. There was an accompanying story in the Wall Street Journal, “Is There a Heart Attack in Your Future?” According to the article, the tests that will eventually be offered by Navigenics have already been tested by at least one of the company’s co-founders:
“David Agus, a cancer researcher at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles who is a co-founder of the company, says he took the test and found he had a 68% risk of having a heart attack in his lifetime, compared with about 40% in the general population. His kids, he says, now help him stay away from French fries. “I’m a believer in empowerment,” he says.”
Yesterday, I looked at the size of the Genetic Genealogy market, and concluded that as of November 2007, there had been as many (or perhaps ‘at least’) 600,000 to 700,000 genetic genealogy tests performed, with 80,000 to 100,000 new tests per year. As the footnoteMaven mentioned, it might be interesting to see if we could turn those numbers into dollar amounts.
The following is a very rough attempt to translate the numbers into market value, with the following caveats: (1) I am not an economist, and I haven’t taken an economics class since high school; (2) the numbers do not take into account testing upgrades, which are offered by a number of companies; (3) the numbers do not take into account sequencing of the entire mitochondrial genome, specialized allele tests, or combination tests (e.g. Y-DNA and mtDNA) and; (4) the average cost of testing only reflects the companies included in yesterday’s accounting, and do not include the free SMGF test.