23andme.com, one of the major suppliers of DNA kits for testing your ancestry, has just recently announced Federal Drug Administration (FDA) approval for a limited type of testing for genetic risks for cancer. Here is a quote from their press release.
Authorization allows 23andMe to report on BRCA1- and BRCA2-related genetic risk for breast, ovarian and prostate cancer
Mountain View, California – March 6, 2018 – 23andMe, Inc., the leading personal genetics company, today received the first-ever FDA authorization for a direct-to-consumer genetic test for cancer risk. The authorization allows 23andMe to provide customers, without a prescription, information on three genetic variants found on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes known to be associated with higher risk for breast, ovarian and prostate cancer.Quoting from the International Society of Genetic Genealogy Wiki (ISOGG:
“Being the first and only direct-to-consumer genetics company to receive FDA authorization to test for cancer risk without a prescription is a major milestone for 23andMe and for the consumer,” said Anne Wojcicki, 23andMe CEO and co-founder. “We believe it’s important for consumers to have direct and affordable access to this potentially life-saving information. We will continue pioneering a path for greater access to health information, and promoting a more consumer-driven, preventative approach to health care.”
23andMe is a privately held personal genomics and biotechnology company based in Mountain View, California, that claims to be developing new methods and technologies that will enable consumers to understand their own genetic information. The company is named for the 23 pairs of chromosomes in a human cell.Some years ago, 23andMe was doing extensive genetic screening for a variety of health issues including cancer. In 2013 the FDA shut down further sales of the saliva home-test kit, citing the “potential health consequences that could result from false positive or false negative assessments for high-risk indications. Apparently, now 23andMe has overcome that initial set back and gotten into the genetic health risk assessment market.
I have been watching the large online genealogy database companies as some of the companies began supporting their family tree programs with DNA testing. I thought it was significant that Ancestry.com began subsidiary companies with the names of AncestryDNA and AncestryHealth. Here is a quote from TechCrunch.com from back in 2015 about the launch of AncestryHealth company:
The company saw an opportunity in consumer genetic testing similar to 23andMe three years ago and launched AncestryDNA as a subsidiary of Ancestry.com. Ancestry’s patented algorithm began matching users to relatives as well as DNA matches to ancestors as far back as the 1700’s.
The company is now taking those family connections a step further with the introduction of generational health information.
Let's face it, the health industry is immeasurably larger than the genealogy industry. Once these companies get involved in DNA testing, it is a natural step to extend their testing services and then become involved in other aspects of health care. In the case of Ancestry.com, we haven't heard much about AncestryHealth since its introduction. At this point, I can only speculate that the siren call of the health industry may pull some of the genealogy companies away from providing only genealogically interesting products and that raises the question of how they will allocate their resources if they are making a lot of their profits from health-related products.