Four years ago my friend David Mittelman and I wrote Rumors of the death of consumer genomics are greatly exaggerated. The context was the FDA crackdown on 23andMe. Was the industry moribund before it began? The title gives away our opinion. We were personally invested. David and I were both working for Family Tree DNA, which is part of the broader industry. But we were sincere too.
Both of us have moved on to other things. But we still stand by our original vision. And to a great extent, we think we had it right. The consumer genomics segment in DTC is now nearing 10 million individuals genotyped (Ancestry itself seems to have gone north of 5 million alone).
One of the things that we observed in the Genome Biology piece is that personal genomics was still looking for a “killer app”, like the iPhone. Since then the Helix startup has been attempting to create an ecosystem for genomics with a variety of apps. Though ancestry has driven nearly ten million sales, there still isn’t something as ubiquitous as the iPhone. We’re still searching, but I think we’ll get there. Data in search of utility….
David and I are still evangelizing in this space, and together with another friend we came up with an idea: DNAGeeks. We’re starting with t-shirts because it’s something everyone understands, but also can relay our (and your) passion about genomics. We started with “Haplotees.” Basically the most common Y and mtDNA lineages. This might seem silly to some, but it’s something a lot of people have an interest in, and it’s also a way to get ‘regular people’ interested in genetics. Genealogy isn’t scary, and it’s accessible.
We are also field-testing other ideas. If there is a demand we might roll out a GNXP t-shirt (logo only?). The website is obscure enough that it won’t make sense to a lot of people. But perhaps it will make sense to the people who you want it to make sense to!
Anyway, as they say, “keep watching this space!” We don’t know where DNAGeeks is going, but we’re aiming to have fun with genomics and make a little money too.