23andMe, the Google-backed genetic testing service, comes to the UK
The idea behind 23andMe is simple enough: you get a kit sent to your home, you spit in the relevant places and then send it back. Then they test it for you and screen your DNA for genes that are associated with certain inherited diseases (for example, cystic fibrosis or sickle cell anaemia), as well as other genetic markers pertaining to ancestry and other parts of their lives.
As Anne Wojcicki, chief executive at 23andMe, puts it: “We can take complicated genetic information and distil it in language that people can actually understand. The genome is fascinating, and it’s the most exciting scientific revolution of our lifetime. The goal is to keep people engaged with their own genome, so that they know what it means for them and then keep them abreast of the scientific discoveries as they unfold.”
The kits cost £125, actually processed in a lab in the Netherlands and returns results to you in around 6-8 weeks. This is returned both as the raw data and tools from 23andMe that allow you to investigate your genetic makeup a little more easily.
For those worried about the security of their information, the data is both encrypted and separated from identifying details on 23andMe’s servers. This is only made accessible to the subject, but people can also share researchers, their doctor or family if they want to (or remove it from the servers entirely).
Wojcicki continues: “There is a division between the people who wear the white coats and those who don’t. Science has a reputation of being inaccessible, for the super smart or the elite, but I want to make people realise that science is accessible to everyone and anyone can understand their genome and it’s fascinating.”
PixelHealth is hoping to get its hands on a kit to try out soon, so watch this space for more updates on 23andMe in the UK.