23andMe: The Re-Review

A week ago, I wrote a review about the three major companies focusing on personalized genetics. That time, I couldn’t include all the required information in the section of 23andMe. Now, here is the re-review:



  • Design: Great! Clear structure, big buttons, nice colors. That’s how it should look like because all the functions are easily accessible.


  • Informativeness: I must say, nearly perfect. Own pages for experts and laypeople as well. Sections for the scientific and the medical communities. Tutorials, descriptions, explanations about the basic concepts of genetics and their service. Like David P. Hamilton noted that more information about genetic counseling would be needed.


  • Cost: Price per kit is $999 plus shipping.
  • Target: Breast Cancer, Crohn’s Disease, Heart Attack, Multiple Sclerosis, Obesity, Prostate Cancer, Restless Legs Syndrome, Diabetes Type 1 and 2, Venous Thromboembolism, Bitter Taste Perception, Earwax Type, Lactose Intolerance and Muscle Fiber and Sports. Read about the genetic associations here.
  • Media Coverage: BBGM, My Biotech Life and VentureBeat.

Just one more note about direct-to-consumer genetic testing:

Some argue it is too early to make personalized genetic information directly available to consumers, contending that the level of public understanding has not matured to the point that most people are able to understand their results, and that genetic associations discovered to-date have little actual significance.

23andMe believes people have the right to access their personal genetic information. Genetic information is a fundamental element of a person’s body, identity and individuality. As such, the rights that people enjoy with regard to financial, medical and other forms of personal information should apply to genetic information as well.

I’ve always been optimistic, but I don’t think the public is ready right now. Can you really tell the patient about his/her susceptibility to medical conditions? I’ve been working with COPD-related SNPs and there are plenty of SNPs that indicate a higher risk for COPD, there are others that indicate lower risk, and there are many more that we know nothing about. The only thing I can tell my patient is that based on the SNPs I analyzed, he/she has a risk regarding that specific condition, but that’s all. Forget about universal susceptibility rates! Is this information worth $999?

One example is the risk for obesity. They analyze a SNP of the gene FTO (rs3751812 – Nature article requires subscription). Maybe the reason is my lack of expertise, but can we tell the patient anything about the risk for obesity by analyzing one gene’s one SNP? Or do they make only one SNP public for business reasons? The answer of 23andMe would be most welcome!

I understand that they had to launch the service, but we’ll need years of research to make it really useful. Anyway, it’s very important to promote the work of the first personalized genetic companies including 23andMe as I believe, they hold the key to the future of medicine. What do yout think?