DNA: Disease analysis or genealogy?


According to a New York Times article, analyzing DNA for disease risk isn’t as popular as its providers thought it might be.

There’s a big difference between those consumer segments who participate in genetic genealogy testing rather than disease analysis.

Andrew Pollack’s story focused on 23&Me but also mentioned Navigenics and DeCode Genetics, in the article which discussed the lack of paying customers and small numbers of paying customers.

Connected to Google by both love and money, 23andMe seems the epitome of a 21st-century company — a cutting-edge merging of biotechnology and the Internet, with a dash of celebrity thrown in.

The scarce ingredient so far is customers.

23&Me is the most prominent, founded in 2007 by the wife (Anne Wojcicki) of Google’s cofounder Sergey Brin. It launched with celebrity “spit parties” to market personal genomics services. Individuals’ DNA is scanned and promises to provide the risks for developing many diseases.

However, 23&Me has gone through two series of layoffs (from 70 to 40 employees). According to the story, it has only 35,000 customers and about 25% were tested for free or $25. Normally the teats run from $300-2,000. The other two companies mentioned have even fewer customer.

Professional geneticists call it a “wonderful form of recreation,” but that its practical value is “premature.”

On its third CEO in a year, Navigenics has had layoffs and now sells to doctors and corporate wellness programs instead of the public. Insiders say there are only about 20,000 customers, and 5,000 received large discounts to participate.

DeCode Genetics only attracted fewer than 10,000 customers to its personal genomics service, and went through bankruptcy.

Read the complete story at the link above for more.

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