2021 is starting out with an exciting announcement in the genetic genealogy world. A marriage!
Dr. Lior Rauchberger, CEO of Australian company, myDNA, has announced a merger with well-known genetic genealogy company, FamilyTreeDNA along with the parent company that owns their DNA processing lab, Gene by Gene.
Bennett Greenspan and Max Blankfeld, founders of both Houston-based companies, FamilyTreeDNA and Gene by Gene, will retain board seats in the merged organization, while Rauchberger will be the CEO of the organization.
Here’s the full press release.
I spoke with Bennett, and he assured me that myDNA has every intention of maintaining and investing in the genealogy side of the house. He indicated that both companies felt that this was a very compatible marriage.
I didn’t know anything about myDNA previously, but like any genealogist, I’ve done some research.
Who is myDNA?
According to their website, myDNA, founded in 2007, is focused on personal health management.
Their approach seems to be a bit different than health and wellness tests I’ve seen before.
The myDNA test is a functional pathology test that reports on how genetic factors may influence the ways in which medications affect individuals. Different people metabolize and eliminate medications differently, and at various speeds.
myDNA testing provides customers with the ability to work with their physicians to tailor their medications to maximize benefits and minimize side effects.
I’m not surprised that FamilyTreeDNA has, one way or another, added a health component to the menu. As I mentioned in my Genetic Genealogy at 20 Years article earlier this week, all three of the other major players have a health/medical aspect of their products.
You can take a look at what myDNA offers, here, and here, for yourself, and at an example report, here.
The myDNA products also offer ways to make sustainable lifestyle changes, DNA based meal plans and workouts customized for your goals.
I don’t have any personal experience with myDNA, but I will as soon as I order a test.
Benefits and Opportunities
I see several potential benefits to the genetic genealogy community, including:
- myDNA customers may provide a pool of new customers (and matches) who might possibly be interested in genealogy, aka, YDNA, mitochondrial DNA, and autosomal testing.
I would presume that these tests will soon be offered as options to myDNA customers. Australia, in addition to its aboriginal population, consists of immigrants from the British Isles and elsewhere. I actually discovered the DNA match down under who broke through my decades-old Speak family brick wall in Lancashire.
- myDNA customers, even if they aren’t interested in genealogy, per se, may be interested in more general “where did I come from,” personal history type of information.
This might include interesting Y and mitochondrial DNA migration map “journeys,” along with ethnicity. I’m thinking along the lines of “myY,” “myMito” and the already existing “myOrigins,” Perhaps something similar to the less in-depth, but still quite interesting (now-defunct) Genographic product test results.
Adding FamilyTreeDNA tools for myDNA customers would benefit both sides of the equation. Every additional person who tests helps the scientific research aspect, meaning building both the Y and mitochondrial trees, which in turn helps traditional genealogy customers.
Conversely, FamilyTreeDNA customers may want to easily add some of the myDNA products and have them available through one single customer portal.
I’m extremely hopeful about opportunities for the genetic genealogy side of the house. Specifically, my fingers are crossed that myDNA will invest in:
- Website infrastructure which will improve performance.
- Enhancing current and adding new advanced genealogy tools and products that aren’t just pieces, but provide us with innovative solutions.
And yes, I have suggestions. Like a kid in the toy store, I have a long wish list of features I’d love to see😊.
I’d like to hear your (positively constructed) wish list as well.
I’m excited about this new opportunity!
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DNA Purchases and Free Transfers
- FamilyTreeDNA – Y, mitochondrial and autosomal DNA testing
- MyHeritage DNA –Autosomal DNA test
- MyHeritage FREE DNA file upload – Transfer your results from other vendors free
- AncestryDNA – Autosomal DNA test
- 23andMe Ancestry – Autosomal DNA only, no Health
- 23andMe Ancestry Plus Health
Genealogy Products and Services
- MyHeritage FREE Tree Builder – Genealogy software for your computer
- MyHeritage Subscription with Free Trial
- Legacy Family Tree Webinars – Genealogy and DNA classes, subscription-based, some free
- Legacy Family Tree Software – Genealogy software for your computer
- Charting Companion – Charts and Reports to use with your genealogy software or FamilySearch
- Legacy Tree Genealogists – Professional genealogy research
- Genealogical.com – Lots of wonderful genealogy research books
As an Australian I feel positive about this development as well.
Given that myDNA products are sold through pharmacies this merger might bring better exposure to FTDNA’s genealogy tests.
Oh, that’s interesting.
I’m not at all interested in health or custom drugs, not of any sort. I’m old enough now that if I kick off tomorrow, that’s fine by me. I don’t want to be part of any health study. I hope they know better than to try to use our DNA for their health research as I never signed up for any king of research with any company for me or my family. FTDNA already pulled a stunt with LE so I don’t see this as a good thing. I’m very aware of how little trust I have in FTDNA after their LE stunt and now this? I think my lack of trust is warranted.
Did you read the press release? They said the terms of service were staying the same.
That’s why I mentioned my lack of trust. There is a new party here and I don’t know if they will follow the rules. FTDNA didn’t so why should I believe the new company will do any better? I have to evaluate this new mix. I don’t know if their word has any value. They have to earn my trust.
Can the terms of Service stay the same ? Australia has different laws than the USA. Will that affect anything ?
They have said that the terms of service are staying the same for both companies and that they are operating separately.
ohh, operating separately. I wonder how that works. So ftdna will be under USA laws and mydna under AU laws. I was thinking everything would have to be under the parent company.
What is LE?
Law Enforcement, FTDNA and GEDmatch let LE use our DNA.
They allow law enforcement under certain circumstances to upload kits for rape, murder and I identified body cold cases for matching to kits of customers who have allowed their kits to be utilized for that purpose.
It’s not at all clear to me what type of test myDNA performs. On the face of it, they appear to test a limited number of specific variants for pharmacogenomics.
A review in Runner’s World said their report included variants in seven genes.
It doesn’t sound like there would be much crossover with genetic genealogy tests. I’d inquire before ordering a test.
No, it doesn’t appear so. They would perform a different test for those different things.
Roberta, as always interesting news. My question is I uploaded raw DNA from Ancestry to FTDNA, will my existing DNA also be included or will they require those of us who paid the 19.95 several years back to take their test?
Nothing is happening to the DNA file you transferred or what you paid for.
I love this having had at least two drug interactions that were surely genetic. I had to do deep dives in to research literature just to document others ‘ having the reaction. My 23andme kit finally showed one.
I am leery. They have different focus. They are likely economic pressures involved. Who is the ‘big fish” here, who has more “cash”, if myDNA, the genealogical aspect may loose focus. We’ll have to wait and see.
Of course there are economic pressures involved. There are economic pressure in involved in any business. DNA testing is not a free public service. I am sure that consumer fees do not come close to keeping the testing companies cash neutral.
I know that DNA testing is not a free public service. I only hope that the genealogical aspect of the new company -for people that are not that interested in the medical aspect- are allowed to continue developing independently. Most likely FTDNA makes most of its income from the mtDNA and yDNA testing.
Thank you, Ms. Roberta, for consistently keeping us up to speed on new developments regarding all things DNA, genetics, and genealogy.☺
As a proud Aussie, I’m very aware of our great Genomic and Genomic Sequencing research work done here. With huge interest in DNA and Genealogy, I’m not surprised to see this merger. I always let new verified matches know of genetic Haemochromatosis (iron overload) which runs in my family…knowledge is power to avoid serious damage or death. Genetic drug interaction information is just another tool to help future generations.
Thanks for the article, Roberta. Interesting times ahead! 🙂
You ask for a Wish List … there is one already on the ISOGG Wiki pages and this could be added to with any suggestions that you get in response to your article. Here’s the link …
I’ve always liked having Greenspan and Blankfeld at the wheel of FTDNA. I realize that FTDNA has grown so much over the almost two decades and that change is inevitable. But I’ve really admired how FTDNA has maintained a small and caring company atmosphere toward both their employees and customers. Their respect for their customer’s privacy has been admirable (no matter how one feels about LE). I hope Rauchberger continues their lead.
But on the pharmacogenetic front, although I’m not personally interested in such testing at this time, my elderly Mom recently had such a test – and I was grateful. Because the test showed inherited genetics that precluded certain prescriptions for some symptoms that needed treatment. I see that this is the future. But privacy is everything.
This looks like a fascinating technology. I would order a test as soon testing becomes available in my area, since it seems that a blood draw is probably needed.
I don’t think so because it has been reported that these kits are sold in pharmacies in Australia.
Being able to be tested with just a cheek swab would be great!
When I desperately needed a cheek swab for an FTDNA test I purchased a myDNA test kit from a local pharmacy – just for the swab – and submitted it to FTDNA for aDNA testing and it worked out fine.
So it’s definitely a cheek swab.
Thank you Roberta. This is very surprising news.
When I last checked there were about 9 tests available for medication which provided
helpful information. Earlier a small card was provided which listed the test results, could be
carried by the person and presented in a medical emergency or for routine health
appointments. This card was discontinued with results being forwarded to a health
professional and available online some days later if the person wished to read the
results. I am not sure if the same procedure is followed for individualized weight loss
information etc. I would like to see the Pharmacogenomic Profile card reintroduced.
It contained a phone number and website details for Prescribers.
I read there were about 85,000 users at mydna. If that is correct then not very many that could potentially be added to the genealogy db
I thought there were about 2 million but I don’t recall exactly where I saw that. They would need to specifically test for genealogy and hopefully they will be interested.
2M sounds better and I hope true. The other figure did not sound correct due the fact they are buying ftdna. I would think a bigger company would be doing that. 2M from AU to do atdna tests sounds good. Maybe they will give them discounts
Since FamilyTreeDNA was small, I had always thought they might merge or be sold. My thought was that MyHeritage would likely take over. Big surprise. A company I never heard of. A company involved more with health. That does give me pause for concern. But I will just have to wait to see what happens.
Fingers crossed, Roberta. 😉