2013 Family Tree DNA Conference Day 1

This article is probably less polished than my normal articles.  I’d like to get this information out and to you sooner rather than later, and I’m still on the road the rest of this week with little time to write.  So you’re getting a spruced up version of my notes.  There are some articles here I’d like to write about more indepth later, after I’m back at home and have recovered a bit.

Max Blankfield and Bennett Greenspan, founders, opened the conference on the first day as they always do.  Max began with a bit of a story.

13 years ago Bennett started on a quest….

Indeed he did, and later, Bennett will be relating his own story of that journey.

Someone mentioned to Max that this must be a tough time in this industry.  Max thought about this and said, really, not.  Competition validates what you are doing.

For competition it’s just a business opportunity – it was not and is not approached with the passion and commitment that Family Tree DNA has and has always had.

He said this has been their best year ever and great things in the pipeline.

One of the big moves is that Arpeggi merged into Family Tree DNA.

10th Anniversary Pioneer Awards

Quite unexpectedly, Max noted and thanked the early adopters and pioneers, some of which who are gone now but remain with us in spirit.

Max and Bennett recognized the administrators who have been with Family Tree DNA for more than 10 years.  The list included about 20 or so early adopters.  They provided plaques for us and many of us took a photo with Max as the plaques were handed out.

Plaque Max and Me 2013

I am always impressed by the personal humility and gratitude of Max and Bennett, both, to their administrators.  A good part of their success is attributed, I’m sure, to their personal commitment not only to this industry, but to the individual people involved.  When Max noted the admins who were leaders and are no longer with us, he could barely speak.  There were a lot of teary eyes in the room, because they were friends to all of us and we all have good memories.

Thank you, Max and Bennett.

The second day, we took a group photo of all of the recipients along with Max and Bennett.

With that, it was Bennett’s turn for a few remarks.

Bennett remarks

Bennett says that having their own lab provides a wonderful environment and allows them to benchmark and respond to an ever changing business environment.

Today, they are a College of American Pathologists certified lab and tomorrow, we will find out more about what is coming.  Tomorrow, David Mittleman will speak about next generation sequencing.

The handout booklet includes the information that Family Tree DNA now includes over 656,898 records in more than 8,700 group projects. These projects are all managed by volunteer administrators, which in and of itself, is a rather daunting number and amount of volunteer crowd-sourcing.

Session 1 – Amy McGuire, PhD, JD – Am I My Brother’s Keeper?

Dr. McGuire went to college for a very long time.  Her list of degrees would take a page or so.  She is the Director of the Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy at Baylor College of Medicine.

Thirteen years ago, Amy’s husband was sitting next to Bennett’s wife on an airplane and she gave him a business card.  Then two months ago, Amy wound up sitting next to Max on another airplane.  It’s a very small world.

I will tell you that Amy said that her job is asking the difficult questions, not providing the answers.  You’ll see from what follows that she is quite good at that.

How is genetic genealogy different from clinical genetics in terms of ethics and privacy?  How responsible are we to other family members who share our DNA?

What obligations do we have to relatives in all areas of genetics – both clinical, direct to consumer that related to medical information and then for genetic genealogy.

She referenced the article below, which I blogged about here.  There was unfortunately, a lot of fallout in the media.

Identifying Personal Genomes by Surname Inference – Science magazine in January 2013.  I blogged about this at the time.

She spoke a bit about the history of this issue.

Mcguire

In 2004, a paper was published that stated that it took only 30 to 80 specifically selected SNPS to identify a person.

2008 – Can you identify an individual from pooled or aggregated or DNA?  This is relevant to situations like 911 where the DNA of multiple individuals has been mixed together.  Can you identify individuals from that brew?

2005 – 15 year old boy identifies his biological father who was a sperm donor.  Is this a good thing or a bad thing?  Some feel that it’s unethical and an invasion of the privacy of the father.  But others feel that if the donor is concerned about that, they shouldn’t be selling their sperm.

Today, for children conceived from sperm donors, there are now websites available to identify half-siblings.

The movement today is towards making sure that people are informed that their anonymity may not be able to be preserved.  DNA is the ultimate identifier.

Genetic Privacy – individual perspectives vary widely.  Some individuals are quite concerned and some are not the least bit concerned.

Some of the concern is based in the eugenics movement stemming from the forced sterilization (against their will) of more than 60,000 Americans beginning in 1907.  These people were considered to be of no value or injurious to the general population – meaning those institutionalized for mental illness or in prison.

1927 – Buck vs Bell – The Supreme court upheld forced sterilization of a woman who was the third generation institutionalized female for retardation.  “Three generations of imbeciles is enough.”  I must say, the question this leaves me with is how institutionalized retarded women got pregnant in what was supposed to be a “protected” environment.

Hitler, of course, followed and we all know about the Holocaust.

I will also note here that in my experience, concern is not rooted in Eugenics, but she deals more with medical testing and I deal with genetic genealogy.

The issues of privacy and informed consent have become more important because the technology has improved dramatically and the prices have fallen exponentially.

In 2012, the Nonopore OSB Sequencer was introduced that can sequence an entire genome for about $1000.

Originally, DNA data was provided in open access data bases and was anonymized by removing names.  The data base from which the 2013 individuals were identified removed names, but included other identifying information including ages and where the individuals lived.  Therefore, using Y-STRs, you could identify these families just like an adoptee utilizes data bases like Y-Search to find their biological father.

Today, research data bases have moved to controlled access, meaning other researchers must apply to have access so that their motivations and purposes can be evaluated.

In a recent medical study, a group of people in a research study were informed and educated about the utility of public data bases and why they are needed versus the tradeoffs, and then they were given a release form providing various options.  53% wanted their info in public domain, 33 in restricted access data bases and 13% wanted no data release.  She notes that these were highly motivated people enrolled in a clinical study.  Other groups such as Native Americans are much more skeptical.

People who did not release their data were concerned with uncertainly of what might occur in the future.

People want to be respected as a research participant.  Most people said they would participate if they were simply asked.  So often it’s less about the data and more about how they are treated.

I would concur with Dr. McGuire on this.  I know several people who refused to participate in a research study because their results would not be returned to them personally.  All they wanted was information and to be treated respectfully.

What  the new genetic privacy issues are really all about is whether or not you are releasing data not just about yourself, but about your family as well.  What rights or issues do the other family members have relative to your DNA?

Jim Watson, one of the discoverers of DNA, wanted to release his data publicly…except for his inherited Alzheimer’s status.  It was redacted, but, you can infer the “answer” from surrounding (flanking regions) DNA.  He has two children.  How does this affect his children?  Should his children sign a consent and release before their father’s genome is published, since part of it is their sequence as well? The academic community was concerned and did not publish this information.  Jim Watson published his own.

There is no concrete policy about this within the academic community.

Dr McGuire then referenced the book, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”.  Henrietta Lacks was a poor African-American woman with ovarian cancer.  At that time, in the 1950s, her cancer was considered “waste” and no release was needed as waste could be utilized for research.  She was never informed or released anything, but then they were following the protocols of the time.  From her cell line, the HeLa cell line, the first immortal cell line was created which ultimately generated a great deal of revenue for research institutes. The family however, remained impoverished.  The genome was eventually fully sequenced and published.  Henrietta Lacks granddaughter said that this was private family information and should never have been published without permission, even though all of the institutions followed all of the protocols in place.

So, aside from the original ethics issues stemming from the 1950s – who is relevant family?  And how does or should this affect policy?

How does this affect genetic genealogy?  Should the rules be different for genetic genealogy, assuming there are (will be) standard policies in place for medical genetics?  Should you have to talk to family members before anyone DNA tests?  Is genetic information different than other types of information?

Should biological relatives be consulted before someone participates in a medical research study as opposed to genetic genealogy?  How about when the original tester dies?  Who has what rights and interests?  What about the unborn?  What about when people need DNA sequencing due to cancer or another immediate and severe health condition which have hereditary components.  Whose rights trump whose?

Today, the data protections are primarily via data base access restrictions.

Dr. Mcguire feels the way to protect people is through laws like GINA (Genomic Information Nondiscrimination Act) which protects people from discrimination, but does not reach to all industries like life insurance.

Is this different than people posting photos of family members or other private information without permission on public sites?

While much of Dr. McGuire’s focus in on medical testing and ethics, the topic surely is applicable to genetic genealogy as well and will eventually spill over.  However, I shudder to think that someone would have to get permission from their relatives before they can have a Y-line DNA test.  Yes, there is information that becomes available from these tests, including haplogroup information which has the potential to make people uncomfortable if they expected a different ethnicity than what they receive or an undocumented adoption is involved.  However, doesn’t the DNA carrier have the right to know, and does their right to know what is in their body override the concerns about relatives who should (but might not) share the same haplogroup and paternal line information?

And as one person submitted as a question at the end of the session, isn’t that cat already out of the bag?

Session 2 – Dr. Miguel Vilar – Geno 2.0 Update and 2014 Tree

Dr. Vilar is the Science manager for the National Geographic’s Genographic Project.

“The greatest book written is inside of us.”

Miguel is a molecular anthropologist and science writer at the University of Pennsylvania. He has a special interest in Puerto Rico which has 60% Native mitochondrial DNA – the highest percentage of Native American DNA of any Caribbean Island.

The Genographic project has 3 parts, the indigenous population testing, the Legacy project which provides grants back to the indigenous community and the public participation portion which is the part where we purchase kits and test.

Below, Dr. Vilars discussed the Legacy portion of the project.

Villars

The indigenous population aspect focuses both on modern indigenous and ancient DNA as well.  This information, cumulatively, is used to reconstruct human population migratory routes.

These include 72,000 samples collected 2005-2012 in 12 research centers on 6 continents.  Many of these are working with indigenous samples, including Africa and Australia.

42 academic manuscripts and >80 conference presentations have come forth from the project.  More are in the pipeline.

Most recently, a Science paper was published about the spread of mtDNA throughout Europe across the past 5000 years.  More than 360 ancient samples were collected across several different time periods.  There seems to be a divide in the record about 7000 years ago when several disappear and some of the more well known haplogroups today appear on the scene.

Nat Geo has funded 7 new scientific grants since the Geno 2.0 portion began for autosomal including locations in Australia, Puerto Rico and others.

Public participants – Geno 1.0 went over 500,000 participants, Geno 2.0 has over 80,000 participants to date.

Dr. Vilar mentioned that between 2008 and today, the Y tree has grown exponentially.  That’s for sure.  “We are reshaping the tree in an enormous way.”  What was once believed to very homogenous, but in reality, as it drills down to the tips, it’s very heterogenous – a great deal of diversity.

As anyone who works with this information on a daily basis knows, that is probably the understatement of the year.  The Geno 2.0 project, the Walk the Y along with various other private labs are discovering new SNPs more rapidly than they can be placed on the Y tree.  Unfortunately, this has led to multiple trees, none of which are either “official” or “up to date.”  This isn’t meant as a criticism, but more a testimony of just how fast this part of the field is emerging.  I’m hopeful that we will see a tree in 2014, even if it is an interim tree. In fact, Dr. Vilars referred to the 2014 tree.

Next week, the Nat Geo team goes to Ireland and will be looking for the first migrants and settlers in Ireland – both for Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA.  Dr. Vilars says “something happened” about 4000 years ago that changed the frequency of the various haplogroups found in the population.  This “something” is not well understood today but he feels it may be a cultural movement of some sort and is still being studied.

Nat Geo is also focused on haplogroup Q in regions from the Arctic to South America.  Q-M3 has also been found in the Caribbean for the first time, marking a migration up the chain of islands from Mexico and South America within the past 5,000 years.  Papers are coming within the next year about this.

They anticipate that interest will double within the next year.  They expect that based on recent discoveries, the 2015 Y tree will be much larger yet.  Dr. Michael Hammer will speak tomorrow on the Y tree.

Nat Geo will introduce a “new chip by next year.”  The new Ireland data should be available on the National Geographic website within a couple of weeks.

They are also in the process up updating the website with new heat maps and stories.

Session 3 – Matt Dexter – Autosomal Analyses

Matt is a surname administrator, an adoptee and has a BS in Computer Science.  Matt is a relatively new admin, as these things go, beginning his adoptive search in 2008.

Matt found out as a child that he was adopted through a family arrangement.  He contacted his birth mother as an adult.  She told him who his father was who subsequently took a paternity test which disclosed that the man believed to be his biological father, was not.  Unfortunately, his ‘father’ had been very excited to be contacted by Matt, and then, of course, was very disappointed to discover that Matt was not his biological child.

Matt asked his mother about this, and she indicated that yes, “there was another guy, but I told him that the other guy was your father.’  With that, Matt began the search for his biological father.

In order to narrow the candidates, his mother agreed to test, so by process of elimination, Matt now knows which side of his family his autosomal results are from.

Matt covers how autosomal DNA works.

This search has led Matt to an interest in how DNA is passed in general, and specifically from grandparents to grandchildren.

One advantage he has is that he has five children whose DNA he can then compare to his wife and three of their grandparents, inferring of course, the 4th grandparent by process of elimination.  While his children’s DNA doesn’t help him identify his father, it did give him a lot of data to work with to learn about how to use and interpret autosomal DNA.    Here, Matt is discussing his children’s inheritance.

Matt dexter

Session 4 – Jeffrey Mark Paul – Differences in Autosomal DNA Characteristics between Jewish and Non-Jewish Populations and Implications for the Family Finder Test

Dr.Jeffrey Paul, who has a doctorate in Public Health from John Hopkins, noticed that his and his wife’s Family Finder results were quite different, and he wanted to know why.  Why did he, Jewish, have so many more?

There are 84 participants in the Jewish project that he used for the autosomal comparison.

What factors make Ashkenazi Jews endogamous.  The Ashkenazi represent 80%of world’sJewish population.

Arranged marriages based on family backgrounds.  Rabbinical lineages are highly esteemed and they became very inbred with cousins marrying cousins for generations.

Cultural and legal restrictions restrict Jewish movements and who they could marry.

Overprediction, meaning people being listed as being cousins more closely than they are, is one of the problems resulting from the endogamous population issue.  Some labs “correct” for this issue, but the actual accuracy of the correction is unknown.

Jeffrey compared his FTDNA Family Finder test with the expected results for known relatives and he finds the results linear – meaning that the results line up with the expected match percentages for unrelated relatives.  This means that FTDNA’s Jewish “correction” seems to be working quite well.  Of course, they do have a great family group with which to calibrate their product.  Bennett’s family is Jewish.

Jeffrey has downloaded the results of group participants into MSAccess and generates queries to test the hypothesis that Jewish participants have more matches than a non-Jewish control group.

The Jewish group had approximately a total of 7% total non-Ashkenazi Jewish in their Population Finder results, meaning European and Middle Eastern Jewish.  The non-Jewish group had almost exactly the opposite results.

  • Jewish people have from 1500-2100 matches.
  • Interfaith 700-1100 (Jewish and non)
  • NonJewish 60-616

Jewish people match almost 33% of the other Jewish people in the project.  Jewish people match both Jewish and Interfaith families.  NonJewish families match NonJewish and interfaith matches.

Jeffrey mentioned that many people have Jewish ancestry that they are unaware of.

This session was quite interesting.  This study while conducted on the Jewish population, still applies to other endogamous populations that are heavily intermarried.  One of the differences between Jewish populations and other groups, such as Amish, Brethren, Mennonite and Native American groups is that there are many Jewish populations that are still unmixed, where most of these other groups are currently intermixed, although of course there are some exceptions.  Furthermore, the Jewish community has been endogamous longer than some of the other groups.  Between both of those factors, length of endogamy and current mixture level, the Jewish population is probably much more highly admixed than any other group that could be readily studied.

Due to this constant redistribution of Jewish DNA within the same population, many Jewish people have a very high percentage of distant cousin relationships.

For non-Jewish people, if you are finding match number is the endogamous range, and a very high number of distant cousins, proportionally, you might want to consider the possibility that some of your ancestors descend from an endogamous population.

Unfortunately, the photo of Dr. Paul was unuseable.  I knew I should have taken my “real camera.”

Session 5 – Finding Your Indian Prince(ss) Without Having to Kiss Too Many Frogs

This was my session, and I’ll write about it later.

Someone did get a photo, which I’ve lifted from Jennifer Zinck’s great blog (thank you Jennifer), Ancestor Central.  In fact, you can see her writeup for Day 1 here and she is probably writing Day 2’s article as I type this, so watch for it too.

 Estes Indian Princess photo

Session 6 – Roundtable – Y-SNPs, hosted by Roberta Estes, Rebekah Canada and Marie Rundquist

At the end of the day, after the breakout sessions, roundtable discussions were held.  There were several topics.  Rebekah Canada, Marie Rundquist and I together “hostessed” the Y DNA and SNP discussion group, which was quite well attended.  We had a wide range of expertise in the group and answered many questions.  One really good aspect of these types of arrangements is that they are really set up for the participants to interact as well.  In our group, for example, we got the question about what is a public versus a private SNP, and Terry Barton who was attending the session answered the question by telling about his “private” Barton SNPs which are no longer considered private because they have now been found in three other surname individuals/groups.  This means they are listed on the “tree.”  So sometimes public and private can simply be a matter of timing and discovery.

FTDNA roundtable 2013

Here’s Bennett leading another roundtable discussion.

roundtable bennett

Session 7 – Dr. David Mittleman

Mittleman

Dr. Mittleman has a PhD in genetics, is a professor as well as an entrepreneur.  He was one of the partners in Arpeggi and came along to Gene by Gene with the acquisition.  He seems to be the perfect mixture of techie geek, scientist and businessman.

He began his session by talking a bit about the history of DNA sequencing, next generation sequencing and a discussion about the expectation of privacy and how that has changed in the past few years with Google which was launched in 2006 and Facebook in 2010.

David also discussed how the prices have dropped exponentially in the past few years based on the increase in the sophistication of technology.  Today, Y SNPs individually cost $39 to test, but for $199 at Nat Geo you can test 12,000 Y SNPs.

The WTY test, now discontinued tsted about 300,000 SNPs on the Y.  It cost between $950 (if you were willing to make your results public) and $1500 (if the results were private,)

Today, the Y chromosome can be sequenced on the Illumina chip which is the same chip that Nat Geo used and that the autosomal testing uses as well.  Family Tree DNA announced their new Big Y product that will sequence 10 million positions and 25,000 known SNPs for an introductory sale price of $495 for existing customers.  This is not a test that a new customer would ever order.  The test will normally cost $695.

Candid Shots

Tech row in the back of the room – Elliott Greenspan at left seated at the table.

tech row

ISOGG Reception

The ISOGG reception is one of my favorite parts of the conference because everyone comes together, can sit in groups and chat, and the “arrival” adrenaline has worn off a bit.  We tend to strategize, share success stories, help each other with sticky problems and otherwise have a great time.  We all bring food or drink and sometimes pitch in to rent the room.  We also spill out into the hallways where our impromptu “meetings” generally happen.  And we do terribly, terribly geeky things like passing our iPhones around with our chromosome painting for everyone to see.  Do we know how to party or what???

Here’s Linda Magellan working hard during the reception.  I think she’s ordering the Big Y actually.  We had several orders placed by admins during the conference.

magellan.jpg

We stayed up way too late visiting and the ISOGG meeting starts at 8 AM tomorrow!

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research

Gene By Gene Acquires Arpeggi

gene by gene logoGene by Gene Acquires Arpeggi, a StartUp Health- and GE-Backed Company, to Build World’s Leading Genetic Testing and Genome Diagnostics Company

— Merger will make DNA testing more accessible and affordable for consumers, researchers and healthcare providers —

HOUSTON–Aug. 7, 2013 ­­ Gene by Gene, Ltd., the world’s first company to develop consumer DNA testing products for ancestry and genealogy applications, announced today the acquisition of Arpeggi, Inc., a StartUp Health- and GE-backed company that develops solutions for genome sequencing, data management and computational analysis.

The combined company will enable the acceleration of an innovative suite of more affordable genetics testing and diagnostics services available to consumers, researchers and healthcare providers.

“The acquisition of Arpeggi’s technology and world­-class team of data and technology experts will enable us to accelerate Gene by Gene’s plan to make next­-generation DNA sequencing and clinical genomics accessible and affordable to all,” said Max Blankfeld, Managing Partner of Gene by Gene. “We are on a mission to transform healthcare by dramatically speeding up the process, and reducing the costs, of genetic tests, which today are often far too expensive for the average consumer.”

Founded in 2012, Arpeggi develops solutions for genome sequencing, data management and computational analysis. In April, the company released GCAT ­ Genome Comparison and Analytic Testing, a free community driven platform for evaluating the performance of next­-generation sequencing (NGS) data analysis methods. The platform has gained tremendous traction and was recently showcased at Bio­IT World and the Clinical Genome Conference. Arpeggi has developed proprietary sequencing tools, designed for scale, that enable accurate, fast, and cost-­effective analysis of genomes. This year, Arpeggi was selected as one of 14 startups, out of 400 applicants, to join the StartUp Health and GE Entrepreneurship Program to help grow, commercialize and scale new innovative healthcare technologies.

“We are thrilled by the acquisition of Arpeggi and excited to continue to help Gene by Gene on its mission to lead the rapidly advancing genetics testing and sequencing market,” said Unity Stoakes, co­founder and President of StartUp Health. “This acquisition represents a significant combination of technologies, expertise and infrastructure that we believe will make an important impact on the future of the genomics sector and how many people have access to these innovations.”

Rafael Torres, Senior Managing Director, GE Ventures- Healthcare said, “The deluge of data generated from genomic testing and the ability to store, analyze and interpret it efficiently has been a bottleneck for organizations focused on large scale sequencing. Arpeggi’s solution provides an infrastructure that helps human genomic and bioinformatics companies get the most out of their data. We’re proud to have Arpeggi involved with our Entrepreneurship Program with StartUp Health and cannot wait to see them further advance DNA testing through the marriage of science and technology.”

The entire Arpeggi team and technology platform will be incorporated into Gene by Gene. Additionally, Arpeggi’s founders will join Gene by Gene’s management team, effective immediately. Arpeggi’s Nir Leibovich was named Gene by Gene’s Chief Business Officer, Jason Wang was named Chief Technology Officer and David Mittelman, Ph.D was named Chief Scientific Officer.

Gene by Gene’s Doron Behar, M.D., Ph.D. was also named Chief Medical Officer.  Gene by Gene’s Blankfeld and Bennett Greenspan continue to serve as the company’s Managing Partners.

Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

About Gene by Gene Ltd.

Founded in 2000, Gene By Gene, Ltd. provides reliable DNA testing to a wide range of consumer and institutional customers through its four divisions focusing on ancestry, health, research and paternity. Gene By Gene provides DNA tests through its Family Tree DNA division, which pioneered the concept of direct-­to­-consumer testing in the field of genetic genealogy more than a decade ago. Gene by Gene is CLIA registered and through its clinical­-health division DNA Traits offers regulated diagnostic tests. DNA DTC is the Research Use Only (RUO) division serving both direct­-to­-consumer and institutional clients worldwide. Gene By Gene offers AABB certified relationship tests through its paternity testing division, DNA Findings. The privately held company is headquartered in Houston, which is also home to its state­-of-­the­-art Genomics Research Center.

###

Media Contacts:

For Gene By Gene, Ltd. and Arpeggi, Inc.:

Kate Croft

Casteel Schoenborn

croft@csirfirm.com

888-609-8351

For StartUp Health:

Unity Stoakes

President

StartUp Health

unity@startuphealth.com

646-416-4121

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research

 

Supreme Court Decision – Genes Can’t Be Patented

In a victory for consumers, patients, researchers and women, the Supreme Court today returned a decision that human genes cannot be patented.

Their decision states that DNA ”is a product of nature and not patent eligible merely because it has been isolated.”

This case was a result of a suit against Myriad Genetics, a company that was granted patents for isolating two human genes, known as BRCA1 and BRCA2, both of which are well known breast cancer genes, recently brought to light by Angelina Jolie’s decision to have preventative mastectomys after both the gene and related breast cancer were found to be prevalent in her family.  Shortly after that decision and surgery, Jolie’s aunt died of breast cancer.

While companies cannot patent the genes themselves, they can develop treatments and hopefully, cures, and those can be patented.  Synthetic genes created are also eligible for patents.  Myriad wasn’t the only company to do this.  The government has issued patents to over 4000 genes to both companies and universities.

The patenting of genes made it impossible for other competing companies who could test for the gene technically to do so.  In other words, it artificially created a sole supplier situation where only one company could provide the test for that gene, and therefore could set the price wherever they wanted.  Jolie revealed that the cost of screening for those two genes alone was $3000, a cost prohibitive to many women.  However, the actual cost of the testing is significantly less.  I was wondering just how much less, then the answer arrived in my inbox.

I know that Gene by Gene, through its division, DNA Traits has the capability to offer this test and has been selling it internationally since 2012.  Bennett Greenspan, president of Gene by Gene has discussed this with me privately, and how terribly it pained him not to be able to do this testing to help people within the US.  Bennett shared some pretty profound thoughts about the unfair situation this created.

I was just getting ready to call Bennett, when less than 6 hours after the Supreme Court decision, I received an e-mail from Gene by Gene, which contained the answer – $995.  So the actual cost to the American consumer is only about one third to one quarter of what they were being charged as a result of the patent.

Today’s Supreme Court decision is truly a victory for patients, consumers, researchers, women and all US citizens.  Below is the content of the e-mail I received from Gene by Gene announcing the ability for DNATraits to sell the BRCA test in the US.

dnatraits brca

In effort to increase access to potentially lifesaving BRCA1 and BRCA2 tests, DNATraits can now offer tests for $995, a fraction of the cost of similar tests prior to the court decision

HOUSTON — Jun. 13, 2013 – Thanks to today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision opening the door to greater access to genetic medicine by American patients and their health care providers, testing for genes specifically linked to breast, ovarian and other cancers will now be more widely available and at a lower cost than ever before.

DNATraits, a division of Houston-based genomics and genetics testing company Gene By Gene, Ltd., announced today that it will offer testing for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes in the United States for $995.  Prior to today’s unanimous Supreme Court ruling, when exorbitant licensing fees kept DNATraits and others from offering BRCA gene tests in the United States, the cost for such tests was around $4,000.

“We’re pleased to make this important testing more widely available and accessible in the United States,” said Gene By Gene President Bennett Greenspan.  “Our highly automated CLIA-registered lab and efficient processes enable us to make genetic and genomic testing more affordable and accessible to more individuals, in the U.S. and worldwide.  And that’s our company’s mission, in a nutshell.”

The company’s announcement about the tests, which gained national attention when actress Angelina Jolie courageously revealed in May that being a BRCA1 carrier was among the factors in her decision to have a preventive double mastectomy, comes after today’s Supreme Court ruling in “Association For Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics.”

“We commend the Supreme Court for opening the door to greater technological innovation and access to genetic tools that promise to save and improve the quality of human lives in the United States,” Greenspan added.  “It’s critical that as an industry we are able to continue to engage in healthy competition to drive down the costs of these tests – because as more individuals have access to and undergo them, the more information we’ll have about many serious diseases that eventually may lead to cures.”

DNATraits has processed testing for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes for individuals living outside the U.S. since 2012.  Those genes are processed using traditional Sanger DNA sequencing, which is considered the gold standard for DNA analysis, at the company’s Genomic Research Center in Houston, a CLIA-registered lab which has processed more than 5 million discrete DNA tests from more than 700,000 individuals and organizations globally.

In addition to the BRCA gene tests, DNATraits offers a pre-natal array that covers 111 population specific diseases, as well as other not population-specific diseases, like Duchene Muscular Dystrophy.

Customer Inquiries

Individuals interested in learning more about either the BRCA1 or BRCA2 tests should ask their doctors for more information.  They and their health care providers can also visit the company’s website, www.dnatraits.com, or call (713) 868-1438 for more information.

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research

Gene by Gene Signs Agreement with MD Anderson Cancer Center

It’s really nice to know that the labs owned by Gene by Gene, which includes the lab that processes the Family Tree DNA tests, are so highly regarded.  The MD Anderson Cancer Center is THE cancer treatment center, very highly regarded, ranked as the #1 cancer treatment center in the US and one the first three comprehensive cancer treatment centers, focusing on academics, research and treatment.  Congratulations to Gene by Gene.  Gene by Gene and MD Anderson will make a great team!  The press release is follows:

Gene By Gene Signs Agreement with MD Anderson Cancer Center

Will provide clinical phase instruction, training and supervision for students as part of agreement

 HOUSTON — Apr. 23, 2013 – Gene By Gene, Ltd., the Houston-based genomics and genetics testing company, announced that it has signed an agreement with the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center to become one of its affiliated clinical laboratories.

Under the agreement, scientists at Gene By Gene’s Genomic Research Center will provide the clinical phase instruction, training and supervision required for students in the Molecular Genetic Technology Program, one of eight undergraduate programs offered through MD Anderson’s School of Health Professions.

“We’re delighted to partner with Gene By Gene, with its long and pioneering history in the field of genomics,” said Program Director, Peter Hu, Ph.D., with the School of Health Professions.  “Gene By Gene’s sequencing, next-generation sequencing and microarray laboratory will provide the top level of experience and training that we want all our molecular students to attain.”

Gene By Gene’s Genomic Research Center is a CLIA registered lab which has processed more than 5 million discrete DNA tests from more than 700,000 individuals and organizations globally.  It is now one of only 36 laboratories in the United States, including the Yale University School of Medicine and the Baylor College of Medicine, to achieve this prestigious affiliation.

“We’re very proud to be able to share our laboratory and expertise with MD Anderson’s School of Health Professions,” said Gene By Gene President Bennett Greenspan.  “It’s an honor to be among the select few companies and institutions that are invited to affiliate with this prestigious institution.  In addition, this is a wonderful opportunity for Gene By Gene to continue investing in the next generation of leaders in genomic and genetic science, and we’re thrilled to welcome the first students to our Genomics Research Center this May.”

About Gene By Gene, Ltd.

Founded in 2000, Gene By Gene, Ltd. provides reliable DNA testing to a wide range of consumer and institutional customers through its four divisions focusing on ancestry, health, research and paternity.  Gene By Gene provides DNA tests through its Family Tree DNA division, which pioneered the concept of direct-to-consumer testing in the field of genetic genealogy more than a decade ago.  Gene by Gene is CLIA registered and through its clinical-health division DNA Traits offers regulated diagnostic tests.  DNA DTC is the Research Use Only (RUO) division serving both direct-to-consumer and institutional clients worldwide.  Gene By Gene offers AABB certified relationship tests through its paternity testing division, DNA Findings.  The privately held company is headquartered in Houston, which is also home to its state-of-the-art Genomics Research Center.

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I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

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Family Tree DNA Research Center Facilitates Discovery of Ancient Root to Y Tree

The genetic genealogy community has been abuzz for months now with the discovery of the new Root of the Y tree.  First announced last fall at the conference for DNA administrators hosted by Family Tree DNA, this discovery has literally changed the landscape of early genetic genealogy and our understanding of the timeframe of the origins of mankind.  While it doesn’t make much difference in genetic genealogy in the past few generations, since the adoption of surnames, it certainly makes a difference to all of us in terms of our ancestors and where we came from – our origins.  After all, the only difference between current genetic genealogy and the journey of mankind is a matter of generations – and all of our ancestors were there, and survived to reproduce, or we wouldn’t be here.

One of the important aspects of this discovery is the collaboration of citizen scientists with academic institutions and corporations.  In this case, the citizen scientist was Bonnie Schrack, a volunteer haplogroup project administrator, Dr. Michael Hammer of the University of Arizona, National Geographic’s Genographic Project, and Drs. Thomas Krahn and Astrid Krahn, both with the Gene by Gene Genomics Research Center.  Without any one of these players, and Family Tree DNA’s support of projects, this discovery would not have been made.  This discovery of the “new root” legitimizes citizen science in the field of genetic genealogy and ushers in a new day in scientific research in which crowd sourced samples, in this case, through Family Tree DNA projects, provide clues and resources for important scientific discoveries.

Today Gene by Gene released a press release about the discovery of the new root.  In conjunction, Family Tree DNA has lowered their Y DNA test price to $39 for the introductory 12 marker panel for the month of March, hoping to attract new participants and to eliminate price as a factor.  On April 1, the price will increase to $49, still a 50% discount from the previous $99.  Who knows where that next discovery lies.  Could it be in your DNA?

Family Tree DNA’s Genomics Research Center Facilitates Discovery of Extremely Ancient Root to the Human Y Chromosome Phylogenetic Tree

HOUSTON, March 26, 2013 /PRNewswire/   — Gene By Gene, Ltd., the Houston-based   genomics and genetics testing company, announced that a unique DNA sample submitted via National Geographic’s Genographic Project to its genetic genealogy subsidiary, Family Tree DNA, led to the discovery that the most recent common ancestor for the Y chromosome lineage tree is potentially as old as 338,000 years.  This new information indicates that the last common ancestor of all modern Y chromosomes is 70 percent older than previously thought.

The surprising findings were published in the report “An African American Paternal Lineage Adds an Extremely Ancient Root to the Human Y Chromosome Phylogenetic Tree” in The   American Journal of Human Genetics earlier this month.  The study was conducted by a team of top research scientists, including lead scientist Dr. Michael F. Hammer of   the University of Arizona, who currently serves on Gene By Gene’s advisory board, and two of the company’s staff scientists, Drs.Thomas and Astrid-Maria Krahn.

The DNA sample had originally been submitted to National Geographic’s Genographic Project, the world’s largest “citizen science” genetic research effort with more than 500,000 public participants to date, and was later transferred to Family Tree DNA’s database for genealogical research.  Once in Family Tree DNA’s database, long-time project administrator Bonnie Schrack noticed that the sample was very unique and advocated for further testing to be done.

“This whole discovery began, really, with a citizen scientist – someone very similar to our many customers who are interested in learning more about their family roots using one of our genealogy products,” said Gene By Gene President Bennett Greenspan.  “While reviewing samples in our database, she recognized that this specific sample was unique and  brought it to the attention of our scientists to do further testing.  The results were astounding and show the value of individuals undergoing DNA testing so that we can continue to grow our databases and discover additional critical information about human origins and evolution.”

The discovery took place at Family Tree DNA’s Genomic Research Center, a CLIA registered lab in Houston which has processed more than 5 million discrete DNA tests from more than 700,000 individuals and organizations, including participants in the Genographic Project.  Drs. Thomas and Astrid-Maria Krahn of Family Tree DNA conducted the company’s Walk-Through-Y test on the sample and during the scoring process, quickly realized the unique nature of the sample, given the vast number of mutations.  Following their initial findings, Dr. Hammer and others joined to conduct a formal study, sequencing ~240 kb of the chromosome sample to identify private, derived mutations on this lineage, which has been named A00.

“Our findings indicate that the last common Y chromosome ancestor may have lived long before the first anatomically modern humans appeared in Africa about 195,000 years ago,” said Dr. Michael Hammer.  “Furthermore, the sample, which came from an African American man living in South Carolina, matched Y chromosome DNA of males from a very small area in western Cameroon, indicating that the lineage is extremely rare in Africa today, and its presence in the US is likely due to the Atlantic slave trade.  This is a huge discovery for our field and shows the critical role direct-to-consumer DNA testing companies can play in science; this might not have been known otherwise.”

Family Tree DNA recently dramatically reduced the price of its basic Y-DNA test by approximately 50%.  By offering the lowest-cost DNA test available on the market today, Gene By Gene and Family Tree DNA are working to eliminate cost as a barrier to individuals introducing themselves to personal genetic and genomic research.  They hope that expanding the pool of DNA samples in their database will lead to future important scientific discoveries.

About Gene By Gene, Ltd. 
Founded in 2000, Gene By Gene, Ltd. provides reliable DNA testing to a wide range of consumer and institutional customers through its four divisions focusing on ancestry, health, research and paternity.  Gene By Gene provides DNA tests through its Family Tree DNA division, which pioneered the concept of direct-to-consumer testing in the field of genetic genealogy more than a decade ago.  Gene by Gene is CLIA registered and through its clinical-health division DNA Traits offers regulated diagnostic  tests.  DNA DTC is the Research Use Only (RUO) division serving both direct-to-consumer and institutional clients   worldwide.  Gene By Gene offers AABB certified relationship tests through its paternity testing division, DNA Findings. The privately held company is headquartered in Houston, which is also home to its state-of-the-art Genomics Research Center.

SOURCE Gene By Gene, Ltd.

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Personal Genetics – Coming out of the Closet – Ostriches, Eagles and Fear

Ostrich

While most of the people subscribing to this blog are here because of genetic genealogy, genetic genealogy is only one piece of the picture of the future of personal genetics.  Ironically, it’s genetic genealogy that gave low cost genetics a push into the mainstream, some 7 or 8 years before 23andMe, the first personal health genetics company, launched in 2006.

This week, the magazine, ieee Spectrum, of all places, has an absolutely wonderful article, The Gene Machine and Me, about the future of personal genetics.  Many of these types of articles are sensationalized and full of what I call “fear-mongering,” but this one is not only excellently written, it’s accurate and interesting – a triple hitter home run as far as I’m concerned.

I’d like to talk for just a minute or two about the high points in this article, about this emerging technology, what it means to us and about fear.  I’ll be sharing my personal journey down this path.

For those who would like to know how next-generation technology works – by the way – that’s the chip technology employed by Family Tree DNA for the Family Finder product, 23andMe for all of their testing and the National Geographic Geno 2.0 project – this article has a very educational description that is understandable by regular air-breathing humans.  The next-next generation sequencing, discussed here and offered shortly by Ion Torrent, will certainly revolutionize personal genetics much as the Illlumina genotyping chip technology has today.

The benefit of full genomic and exome sequencing, the new technology on the horizon for consumers, is in the information it will tell us about ourselves.  And I’m not referring to genealogy here, although that assuredly will be a big beneficiary of this new world of personal genetics.  For genealogists, there is mention of soon-to-be capabilities of sequencing from one single molecule of DNA.  For those of us with hair brushes and toothbrushes that we’ve been jealously guarding for years now, waiting for the technology to improve to the point where we can obtain the DNA of our dearly departed loved ones, this is going to be our ticket.  As excited as I am about that, that’s not the potential I’m talking about.  I’m talking about information about our own bodies and the potential future foretold in those genes.  Notice the word potential.

The information in our genes is seldom a death sentence.  In rare cases, it is, such as Huntington’s Disease.  If this disease runs in your family, you already know it and testing should be done in conjunction with genetic and/or medical counseling.  For these people, DNA testing will either confirm that they carry that gene, or relieve their mind that they do not.

For the vast majority of us, the information held in our genes it much less dire.  In fact, it’s a good news message, as it will provide us ample warning, an opportunity, to do something differently with our lives to prevent what might otherwise occur.  So it’s not a death sentence, more of a life sentence.  For me, it was an epiphany.  Yes, I took positive action and made dramatic life changes as a result of my DNA test results.  In essence, this is my “coming out” story.

I was one of the first people to order the new 23andMe test when it was first offered, mostly for the genealogy aspect, but as you know, it includes health traits and information.  When I received the results of that test a few years ago, in black and white, where I could not possibly ignore them, the reports indicated that I was at elevated risk for certain conditions.  Those conditions were certainly beginning to manifest themselves in my life.  I was on medication for two of them.  My weight, at the time, was certainly a contributing factor to the development of those conditions.  My sister had died near the age I am now as a result of those conditions.  She looked like me, was built like me, was heavy like me, and very probably carried those exact same genetic risk factors.  Our grandfather died of the same thing about the same age.  Our father had it too, but he died in a car accident – caused by a coronary episode, at age 61.  Seeing this, in black and white, and knowing my family history, I decided to do something to prevent that future, or at least to delay or mitigate it as much as possible.

I lost over 100 pounds and yes, for almost 5 years now, I’ve maintained that weight loss, well except for a pesky 10 or 15 pounds that I fight with regularly.  But still, the 100 pound loss is far more important than the 10-15 pounds I battle with.  I am off of all medication related to those and related conditions.  I’ve changed what and how I eat, and a benefit I really didn’t anticipate is how much better I feel.  You have no idea how much I hate these old pictures of me when I was heavy.  This was taken at National Geographic Headquarters in Washington DC, in 2005, at our DNA Conference.

Me Nat Geo 2005

This next photo is me at one of our Lost Colony archaeology digs about five years later wearing one of my favorite t-shirts that says “Well Behaved Women Seldom Make History.”  All of the genealogists should be laughing about now.  No one wants well-behaved women because you can’t find them in the records.  If my clothes look a bit large, that’s because they are, but that t-shirt was too small before the weight loss.  I could never have done the physical work on those digs, or survived the heat, before losing the weight and going from a size 22 to a 12 in the photo below.  These kinds of activities were all unforeseen benefits of the weight loss.  My sister’s untimely death was not wasted on me, but served as a warning bell, well, more of an unrelenting siren actually, when I saw those DNA results.

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I also took my 23andMe results, at least some of them, the ones related to the conditions I was dealing with, to my physician.  I really had to think long and hard about this.  So now, let’s talk about the fear part of the equation.

Fear of genetic results falls pretty much into two categories.  We’ll call these the Ostriches and the Eagles.

My brother was an Ostrich.  Yep, he was, head right in the sand.  He had cancer, his wife had cancer, twice, his daughter, in her 30s, had cancer, yet their decision when offered free DNA testing was to decline – because they didn’t want to know.  Fear of the information itself, fear of knowing, perhaps spurred because of a sense of fate – nothing we can do about it so why know about it.  He also refused to discuss it, so I really can’t tell you why, and he died, of cancer, last year, so that opportunity is past.  Personally, I think knowing about a genetic proclivity would equate to more vigilant monitoring.  And knowing the proclivity didn’t exist would set one’s mind at ease.  I would think you would be a winner either way, but my thinking and his were obviously quite different.

The other group are the Eagles.  They are vigilant and acutely aware of the fact that health based discrimination does exist.  It has been worse in the past than it is now.  This is the reason I had to think long and hard about taking any of my results to my physician.  Once in your medical record, it’s permanent.

Today, GINA, the Genetics Information Nondiscrimination Act, goes a long way to protecting people, especially in an employment situation, but it does not cover everything.

Anyone who has ever tried to obtain health care insurance individually or through a small business knows all too painfully about pre-existing condition exclusions.  Well, the good news is that ObamaCare, love it or hate it, levels that playing field for the “rest of us,” those who either were denied or had to make life and employment decisions based on whether or not they had insurance coverage through a group where discrimination related to pre-existing conditions didn’t exist.

The other good news is that you don’t have to take any of your DNA test results to your doctor.  It’s entirely up to you.  You can test anonymously, using an alias, if you’re really paranoid.  Your results through personal genetic testing are yours and for no one else to see unless you disclose them.

Lastly, let’s talk realistically about the types of insurance that still discriminate – which would be life insurance, extended care insurance, etc.  They are in the business of odds-making.  They are betting you will live and you are betting you will die sooner than later.  As you age, the odds shift, cause let’s face it, eventually, you will die – and they will have to pay out.  Now the only way they can make money is if you pay more premiums during your life than they have to pay out in the end, or they make the premiums so expensive you stop paying, letting the policy lapse, before you die, so they never have to pay.  Of course, if they think the odds are stacked too far in your favor, they simply won’t insure you.  So, if you or your family members have Huntington’s Disease, you’re not likely to be able to get life insurance outside of a group policy, with or without a genetic test.  In fact, there is a questionnaire about your family history when you apply for individual life insurance.

I bought individual life insurance about 10 years ago.  They sent a nurse to the house to draw my blood.  They wanted chain of custody, to know the blood sample was mine, which is not the case with personal DNA testing.  I had to provide ID.  If the insurance company wanted to run a DNA test, prohibitively expensive then, but not in the next few years, they certainly could do so.  Let’s just say it plain and simple – everyone has pre-existing genetic proclivities to something – no one is immune.  These results are not generally black or white either, but expressed as a range.  For example, 4.2 European women out of 100 will develop Restless Leg Syndrome in thier lifetime.  My risk is 5.2, so slightly elevated above the average.  I’m only “above average” in 5 areas, and below average in most.  And the insurance companies are still going to be in the odds-making business – they can’t deny everyone or they won’t have any business – and they will use this new tool as soon as it becomes economically viable.  There is no escaping it.

So yes, the Eagles are right to watch vigilantly – but for now – how much you share and with whom is entirely in your control, so you don’t need to be an Ostrich either.  There is a great deal of good that can come from personal genetic testing, in addition to genetic genealogy.  Knowledge is power.

So now, if you haven’t already, read this great article, The Gene Machine and Me!!!

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research

2012 Top 10 Genetic Genealogy Happenings

2012 has been a very busy year for genetic genealogists.  There have been lots of discoveries and announcements that affect everyone, now and in the future.  The watchwords for 2012 would be “churn” and “explosive growth.”  Let’s take a look at the 10 most important events, why they are important and what they mean for the future of genetic genealogy.

These items are in what I think are relatively good order, ranked by their importance, although I had a very difficult time deciding between number 1 and 2.

1. The New Root – Haplogroup A00

At the Family Tree DNA conference in November, Michael Hammer, Bonnie Schrack and Thomas Krahn announced that they had made a monumental discovery in the age of modern man known as Y-line Adam.  The discovery of Haplogroup A00 pushes the “birth” of mankind back from about 140,000 years ago to an amazing 338,000 years ago.  Utterly amazing.  The DNA came from an American family from South Carolina.  This discovery highlights the importance of citizen science.  Bonnie is a haplogroup administrator who recognized the potential importance of one of her participants’ DNA.  Thomas Krahn of course is with Family Tree DNA and ran the WTY test, and Michael Hammer is at the University of Arizona.  So you have the perfect blend here of participant, citizen scientist, commercial lab and academia.  What was never thought possible a decade or so ago is not only working, it’s working well and changing the face of both science and humanity.

http://dna-explained.com/2012/11/16/the-new-root-haplogroup-a00/

http://www.haplogroup-a.com./

2. Geno 2.0

Geno 2.0 is the Nickname for the National Geographic Society’s Genographic Project version 2.0.  That mouthful is why it has a nickname.

This amazing project has leveraged the results of the past 7 years of research from the original Genographic project into a new groundbreaking product.  Geno 2.0, utilizing the GenoChip, a sequencing chip created specifically for Nat Geo, offers the most complete Y tree in the world today, expanding the SNP tree from just over 800 SNPs to over 12,000.  They are in essence redrawing the Y chromosome tree as I write this.  In addition, the person who purchases Geno 2.0 will receive a mitochondrial DNA haplogroup assignment.  Over 3300 new mitochondrial mutations were discovered. A brand new anthropological “percentages of ethnicity” report is featured based on over 75,000 Ancestry Informative Markers, many only recently discovered by the Genographic project.  Additionally, participants will receive their percentage of both Neanderthal and Denisovan ancestry based on 30,000 SNPs identified that signal interbreeding between the hominids.  A new website will also facilitate social networking and uploading information to Family Tree DNA.

The wonderful news is that there is a massive amount of new information here that will change the landscape of genetic genealogy.  The difficulty is that we are struggling a bit under the load of that massive amount of information that is just beginning to descend upon us.  It’s a great problem to have!

http://dna-explained.com/2012/07/25/national-geographic-geno-2-0-announcement-the-human-story/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/07/26/geno-2-0-qa-with-bennett-greenspan/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/07/30/geno-2-0-answers-from-spencer-wells/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/07/31/geno-2-0-wty-mtdna-full-sequence-participants-and-more/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/10/14/what-to-order-geno-2-0-vs-family-tree-dna-products/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/10/16/geno-2-0-the-kit-arrives/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/12/11/geno-2-0-results-first-peek/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/12/12/geno-2-0-results-kicking-the-tires/

3. Reconstructed Sapiens Reference Sequence (RSRS)

In July, Family Tree DNA implemented the RSRS that in effect reconstructs the genetic profile of Mitochondrial Eve and bases the comparison of our DNA today against the RSRS sequence as opposed to the Cambridge Reference Sequence (rCRS) created in 1981 that is or was the current standard.  The RSRS is a result of the watershed paper published in April 2012 by Dr. Doron Behar and 8 other authors titled “A “Copernican” Reassessment of the Human Mitochondrial DNA Tree from its Root.”  A complementary research website, www.mtdnacommunity.org, accompanies the paper.

http://dna-explained.com/2012/07/14/what-happened-to-my-mitochondrial-dna/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/07/15/the-crs-and-the-rsrs/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/07/16/the-mtdna-community/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/12/02/little-a-big-a-mitochondrial-dna/

4. Full Genome and Exome Sequence Offered Commercially by Gene by Gene

It was announced at the November DNA conference that Gene by Gene, the parent company of Family Tree DNA, through their division titled DNA DTC is offering full genomic sequencing for the amazing price of $5495 for the full genome and $695 for the exome.  This is a first in the consumer marketspace.  Today, this doesn’t have a lot of application for genetic genealogy, but as the price continues to drop, and utilities are built to process the full genomic data, certainly a market and applications will emerge.  This is an important step forward in the industry with a product that still cost 3 million dollars in 2007.

http://dna-explained.com/2012/11/30/gene-by-gene-announces-landmark-dna-dtc-full-genome-sequence/

5. Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA

It’s official – they did it.  Yep, they interbred and well, they are not them anymore, they are us.  Given that everyone in Asia and Europe carries a part of them, but not people from Africa, it would appear that two populations admixed rather thoroughly in Eurasia and/or the populations were small.  The amount of Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA will continue at approximately the proportions seen today in Europe (2% Neanderthal) and Asia unless a significant amount of admixture from a population (Africa) that does not carry this admixture is introduced.  So if you’re European, you carry both Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA.  They are your ancestors.  The good news is that you can find how much of each through  the Geno 2.0 test.  23andMe results give you the percentage of Neanderthal, but not Denisovan.

http://dna-explained.com/2012/08/31/denisovan-dna-tells-a-story/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/12/12/geno-2-0-results-kicking-the-tires/

6. Ancestral Genome Reconstruction Begins,  Led by Falling Autosomal Prices and the Ability to Fish in Multiple Ponds

2012 has been the year of autosomal testing price reductions and a great deal of churn in this marketspace.  Companies are playing leap-frog with one another.  However, sometimes things are not all that they seem.

Initially, 23andMe opted for an initial payment plus monthly subscription model, which they abandoned for a one time payment price of $299 in early 2012.  Family Tree DNA was slightly less, at $289.

Ancestry led the price war by giving away kits, then selling them for $99, then $129 plus a subscription as an entrance into this market.  However, looking at the Ancestry consent form hints at possible reasons why they were selling below the cost of the tests.  You are in essence giving them permission to sell your DNA and associated information.  In addition, to gain full access to your results and matches, you must maintain some level of subscription to Ancestry.com, increasing the total effective price.

Next came Family Tree DNA’s sale where they dropped their autosomal price to $199, but they were shortly upstaged by 23andMe whose price has now dropped to $99 permanently, apparently, a result of a 50 million dollar investment in order to reach 1 million customers.  They currently have about 180,000.  23andMe has always been in the medical/health business, so their clients have always understood what they were consenting to and for.

Not to be outdone, Family Tree DNA introduced the ability earlier in 2012 to upload your data files from 23andMe to FamilyTree DNA for $89, far less than a second test, which allows you to fish in a second pond where genealogists live for matches.  The challenge at 23andMe is that most of their clients test for the health traits and either don’t answer inquiries or match requests, or know little about their genealogy if they do.  At Family Tree DNA, matches don’t have to answer and allow a match, testers are automatically matched with all participants who take the Family Finder test (or upload their 23andMe results) and testers are provided with their matches’ e-mail address.

Of course, Geno 2.0 was also introduced in the midst of this, in July, for $199 with the additional lollipop of new SNPS, lots of them, that others simply don’t have access to yet.

The good news is that consumers have benefitted from this leapfrogging, I think.  Let’s hope that the subsidized tests at Ancestry and 23andMe don’t serve long term to water down the demand to the point where unsubsidized companies (who don’t selling participants genetic results to others) have problems remaining viable.

Personally, I’ve tested at all of these companies.  I’ll be evaluating the results shortly in detail on my blog at www.dna-explained.com.

The tools provided by most testing companies, plus GedMatch, and multiple ponds to fish in are allowing the serious genetic genealogist to “reconstruct” their genome, attributing segments to specific ancestors.  Conversely, we will also be able to “reconstruct” specific ancestral family lines as well by identifying autosomal segments in multiple descendants.  This new vision of autosomal genetic genealogy will allow much more accurate ancestral line matching, and ancestor identification in the not-so-distant future.

http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2012/01/family-tree-dna-now-accepting-23andme.html

http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2012/05/23andme-eliminates-subscription-model.html

http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2012/10/clarification-of-what-is-available-to.html

http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2012/12/23andme-receives-50-million-and-drops.html

http://www.thegeneticgenealogist.com/2012/12/26/23andme-and-labcorp-sued-for-patent-infringement/

7. Ethnicity Tests Mature – Minus 1

The good news is that the various ethnicity tests (known as BGA or biogeographical ancestry tests) that provide participants with their percentages of various world populations are improving.  The bad news is that there is currently one bad apple in the card with very misleading percentages – and that is Ancestry.com.

23andMe introduced a new version of their ethnicity product in December, expanding from only 3 geographic categories to several.  The Geno 2.0 test results are just beginning to be returned which include ethnicity predictions and references to several base populations.

Family Tree DNA finally has some competition in this arena where for years they have been the only serious player, although opinions differ widely about which of these three organizations results are the most accurate.  All four are Illumina chip based, using hundreds of thousands of locations, as compared with the previous CODIS type tests which used between 15 and 300 markers and are now outdated.  All companies use different reference populations which, of course, provide somewhat different results to participants.  All companies, except Ancestry, have documented and shared their reference population information.

Outside of these companies, Doug McDonald offers a private analysis and Gedmatch offers a series of BGA comparisons written by third parties.

While this industry continues to grow and mature, I’m thinking about just averaging the autosomal ethnic results and calling it good:)

http://dna-explained.com/2012/07/21/ethnicity-finders/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/10/24/ancestrys-mythical-admixture-percentages/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/12/07/new-worldview-at-23andme/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/09/09/doug-mcdonald-on-biogeograpical-analysis/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/12/11/geno-2-0-results-first-peek/

http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2012_12_01_archive.html

8. Finding Your Roots PBS Series with Henry Louis Gates

PBS sponsored a wonderful series in the spring of 2012 hosted by Henry Louis “Skip” Gates, the chair of African American Studies at Harvard.  This series followed a lesser known 2010 series.  The 2012 inspirational series reached tens of thousands of people and increased awareness of genetic genealogy as well as sparked an interest in genealogy itself, especially for mixed race and African American people.  I was disappointed that the series did not pursue the Native American results unexpectedly obtained for one participant.  It seemed like a missed opportunity.  Series like this bring DNA testing for genealogy into the mainstream, making it less “strange” and frightening and more desirable for the average person.  These stories were both inspirational and heartwarming.  I hope we can look forward to similar programs in the future.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finding_Your_Roots

CeCe Moore covered this series in March and April on her blog.

http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2012/03/finding-your-roots-with-henry-louis.html

http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2012/04/finding-your-roots-with-henry-louis.html

http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2012/04/finding-your-roots-with-henry-louis_09.html

http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2012/04/finding-your-roots-with-henry-louis_16.html

http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2012/04/finding-your-roots-with-henry-louis_23.html

http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2012/04/finding-your-roots-with-henry-louis_30.html

9. Ancestry, GeneTree and Sorenson

GeneTree, a for profit company and Sorenson, a non-profit company were both purchased by Ancestry.com.  This was about the same time as Ancestry introduced their autosomal AncestryDNA product.  Speculation was that the autosomal results at Sorenson might be the foundation for the new autosomal test comparisons, although there has been no subsequent evidence of this.

Ancestry initially gave away several thousand kits in order to build their data base, then sold thousands more for $99 before raising the price to what appears to be a normalized price of $129 plus an annual ancestry subscription.

While GeneTree was never a major player in the DNA testing marketspace, Sorenson Molecular Genealogical Foundation played an important role for many years as a nonprofit research institute.  There was significant distress in the genetic genealogy community related to the DNA contributed to Sorenson for research being absorbed by Ancestry as a “for profit” company.  Ancestry is maintaining the www.smgf.org website, but no additional results will be added.  Sorenson has been entirely shuttered.  Many of the Sorenson/GeneTree employees appear to have moved over to Ancestry.

The initial AncestryDNA autosomal product offering is poor, lacks tools and the ethnicity portion has significant issues. It’s strength is that many people who test are already Ancestry subscribers and have attached their trees.  So you can’t see how you connect genetically to your matches (lack of tools), but you can see the trees, if they are attached and not marked as private, of those with whom you match.  Ancestry provides “hints” relative to matching individuals or surnames.

Eventually, if Ancestry improves its products, provides tools and releases the raw data to consumers, this may be a good thing.  It’s an important event in 2012 because of the massive size of Ancestry, but the product is mediocre at best.  Ancestry seems unwilling to acknowledge issues unless their feet are held to the fire publicly as illustrated with a “lab error” erroneous match for an adoptee caught by the consuming public and ignored by Ancestry until CeCe Moore exposed them in her blog.  Whether Ancestry ultimately helps or hurts the genetic genealogy industry is a story yet to be told.  There is very little positive press in the genetic genealogy community surrounding the Ancestry product, but with their captive audience, they are clearly going to be a player.

http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2012/05/ancestrycom-buys-genetree-and-launches.html

http://dna-explained.com/2012/07/12/did-you-test-at-genetree/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/08/30/is-history-repeating-itself-at-ancestry/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/07/18/the-trouble-with-ancestry-com-matches/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/08/14/y-dna-family-tree-dna-vs-ancestry/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/08/16/ancestrys-consent-form-for-ancestrydna-autosomal-test/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/09/10/ancestry-autosomal-results-are-back/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/10/15/ancestrys-dna-survey/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/10/23/ancestry-to-release-array-data-in-2013/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/10/24/ancestrys-mythical-admixture-percentages/

http://www.thegeneticgenealogist.com/2012/06/19/problems-with-ancestrydnas-genetic-ethnicity-prediction/

http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2012/08/ancestrydna-confusing-relationship.html

http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2012/08/follow-up-on-ancestrydna-and-adoptees.html

http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2012/09/23andme-says-no-match-for-adoptees.html

10. GedMatch

GedMatch, www.gedmatch.com, created by John Olson and Curtis Rogers, isn’t new in 2012, but it’s maturing into a tool that is becoming the defacto workhorse of the serious autosomal community.  People who test at either 23andMe or Family Tree DNA download their raw results and other match information and then use a variety of tools at GedMatch to look at results in different ways and using different thresholds. GedMatch is currently working to accept the newly arriving Geno 2.0 data files.  Ancestry does not at this time allow their customers access to their raw data files, so there is nothing to upload. The bad news is that not everyone downloads/uploads their information.  Only the most savvy users, and the download/upload is not always a smooth process, often necessitating several attempts, a magic wand and some fairy dust for luck.

GedMatch is a volunteer effort funded by donations on the GedMatch site.  The magnitude of this project came to light when they needed new servers this year because the amount of traffic disabled their internet service provider.  It may be a volunteer effort, but it has mainstream requirements.  Therefore, while occasionally frustrating, it’s easy to understand why it’s light on documentation and one has to poke around a bit to figure things out.  I would actually prefer that they make it a subscription site, clean up the bugs, add the documentation and take it to the next level.  It would also be very nice if they could arrange something with the major players in terms of a seamless data transfer for clients.  All told, it’s an amazing contribution as a volunteer site.  Hats off to Curtis and John for their ongoing contribution to genetic genealogists!!!

www.gedmatch.com

http://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog/2012/08/12/gedmatch-a-dna-geeks-dream-site/

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

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Gene by Gene Announces Landmark DNA DTC Full Genome Sequence

Gene by Gene, the parent company of Family Tree DNA, formally announced it’s direct to consumer (DTC) offering of full sequence human genome testing.

Testing will be performed in their state of the art research center, shown above, in Houston, Texas.  You can read more about Gene by Gene and their 4 divisions, DNA DTC, Family Tree DNA, DNA Traits and DNA Findings at www.genebygene.com.

Family Tree DNA was established 12 years ago to service the Genetic Genealogy market space, which didn’t yet exist at that time.  Family Tree DNA was an innovator in that field, and has brought the same innovative and entrepreneurial spirit to their other companies established since.

This new offering, the first of it’s kind, reaches out to researchers and others in need of “research only” next generation full genomic sequencing.

“Given the explosive demand for accurate, timely, and large-scale next
generation sequencing, we’re pleased to make our Genomics Research Center
available to investigators exploring the cutting edge of research to pioneer and
enhance treatment of disease, enhance quality of life, break new ground in
genealogical inquiry and otherwise advance the science of genomics,” Gene By
Gene President Bennett Greenspan said. “The launch of DNA DTC is the perfect
complement to our other divisions, through which we make genetic testing
advances every day in the fields of ancestry, health and relationship testing.”

Using the Illumina platform, DNA DTC will offer both full genomic sequence and full exome testing, adding these two items to their menu of over 200 types of DNA tests performed.  Gene by Gene’s lab has already processed more than 5 million discrete DNA tests for more than 700,000 individual clients.  Their institutional clients include the National Geographic Society’s Genographic project and other clients such as France’s Institut Pasteur, Israel’s Rabin Medical Center and the University of Utah.

By bringing full genomic sequencing to the public, they have broken the sound barrier in personal genetics, the veritable X-factor.  The full humane genome was first sequenced in 2003 at a cost of about 3 billion dollars.

A full genome sequence still cost about 3 million in 2007, but DNA DTC is offering it today for an amazing $5495.

While consumers will be able to order the full genome (or exome) test, if they want, it comes with no tools, as it is focused at the research community who would be expected to have their own analytical tools.  However, genetic genealogists being who and what they are, I don’t expect the research market will outweigh the consumer market for long, especially when the price threshold reaches about $1000.  For years the “$1000 genome” has been bantered about, and I expect with the next generation of technology, we may see it sooner than later.  The fact that it has dropped from 3 million to $5495 in 5 years is astounding.

Aside from DNA DTC and Family Tree DNA, the other two  Gene by Gene divisions are DNA Traits (www.dnatraits.com)  which provides CLIA Regulated Diagnostic tests for genetic diseases and DNA Findings (www.dnafindings.com)  which provides AABB certified paternity and relationship testing.

Way to go Max and Bennett and everyone at Gene by Gene!  Congratulations!

So, who is going to be the first in the genetic genealogy community to order this test???

______________________________________________________________

Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research