By Thomas Jones
23andMe, a personal genomics and biotechnology company, has been much discussed since its launch in 2006. In 2008, when the company was offering estimates of “predisposition for more than 90 traits and conditions ranging from baldness to blindness”, Time magazine named the saliva-based personal genome test ‘Invention of the Year’. By 2012, the company had doubled its existing capital. In 2015, that capital hit $241 million.
When I first saw the adverts for 23andMe, it seemed that the primary purpose was to assess the customer’s predisposition to certain diseases and health problems, such as certain cancers, coronary heart disease, possible drug responses, and the possibility of various inherited conditions. This is the first advertisement that I ever saw from them. One of the last lines is “learn more about your health” as if to imply that medical testing is the primary function of their product and services. However, the company’s marketing has since changed with a greater focus being on ancestry and ethnicity. The latest version of the website now features two major services; one is for ‘health and ancestry’, while the other simply concerns ‘ancestry’.