Tuesday, November 23, 2010

News from 23andMe - Consolidated offerings, Personal Genome Service, upgraded chip and possible sale

The DNA genealogy mailing lists and Twitter are all abuzz about 23andMe's new consolidated offerings and price structure, as well as the possibility of another $99 sale tomorrow.  Back in September, I wrote about 23andMe's new subscription plan - the Personal Genome Service here and here.  Not surprisingly, they appear to have changed their model to require this subscription for all new orders starting today. (It seems that 23andMe has taken a lesson from direct response marketing - where we used to say that product is King, but now we all know that continuity is King!) They have done away with the separate Health and Ancestry Editions and now will only offer what was formerly the Complete Edition for $499 plus a minimum one year subscription to their PGS ($5 per month). All customers who formerly had the separate editions have been automatically upgraded and will immediately have access to their raw data as well as all tools currently offered on the site.

23andMe has also announced that they have upgraded their testing chip to the Illumina OmniExpress Plus Genotyping Beadchip, which was originally released in January of this year and enhanced in March. Information on this chip (before enhancements) from the press release:
  • Premiere Genomic Coverage - Greater than 700,000 strategically selected tagSNPs provide genomic coverage up to 90% for Caucasian and Asian populations as assessed by the International HapMap Project.
  • Proven Data Quality - Industry-standard Infinium HD Assay affords greater than 99% average call rates and greater than 99.9% reproducibility.
  • Industry Best Throughput - With the iScan System, researchers can process in excess of thousands of samples per week.
Specifications for the original are here. 23andMe may have a custom designed version of this. The original press release described a chip with coverage of 733,202 markers, while the enhanced "Plus" version appears to cover greater than 900,000 markers. Either way, it is a significant upgrade from the previous 580,000 SNPs. (I am not an expert on this, so please refer to the original sources yourself for details and clarification; more here.)

[Update - From 23andMe's updated FAQs :  
The DNA chip that we use genotypes hundreds of thousands of SNPs at one time. It actually reads 1,000,000 SNPs that are spread across your entire genome. Although this is still only a fraction of the 10 million SNPs that are estimated to be in the human genome, these 1,000,000 SNPs are specially selected "tag SNPs." Because many SNPs are linked to one another, we can often learn about the genotype at many SNPs at a time just by looking at one SNP that "tags" its group. This maximizes the information we can get from every SNP we analyze, while keeping the cost low.
In addition, we have hand-picked tens of thousands of additional SNPs of particular interest from the scientific literature and added their corresponding probes to the DNA chip. As a result, we can provide you personal genetic information available only through 23andMe.
There is a list of the 733,202 non-custom markers here.]

Existing customers have the option to upgrade their results to this new testing platform for $89, but it also requires subscription to the Personal Genome Service. Existing customers will not be required to subscribe or upgrade and will still receive their updates as before. Not surprisingly, without the upgrade, some new information based on specific markers will not be available.

All week 23andMe has been tweeting about upcoming sales and one tweeter who may or may not have inside info tweeted this morning, "@23andMe $99 discount returns; code B84YAG to be live 10 AM Wednesday for the new v3 chip."  I imagine this sale price will require a subscription to the Personal Genome Service, but at only $5/per month, this is still a great deal.

I will post updates as I get them, but keep your eye on 23andMe!

**UPDATE - 23andMe is determined to keep the details secret until tomorrow. We will just have to be patient! Check back then for more...


  1. If that's the case, $99 on Wednesday, might as well just get another kit and run it in parallel with the V2 results.

  2. I agree, Bitzer. That is what I think I am going to do. Then, I will compare them here. Thanks for your comment!

  3. Interesting concept - since everyone will need to re-spit for the upgrade. Any idea how they will bill the PGS? One time fee or monthly?

  4. Thanks, Jim. I understand it will be a monthly charge and you will have to cancel at the end of the 12 months if you don't want to keep paying it. I'm sure they are hoping to make the subscription worth the money and thus keep the continuity $ rolling in indefinitely. I would be surprised if they will offer an option of a one time fee because then there is little chance for continuity.

  5. If you cancel the PGS subscription, you will not receive any new RF matches:(

  6. looks like the deal is dead.. died while i was ordering!

  7. Just saw my first DNA family tree, X-chromosome "fan chart" prepared by Rodney Jewett. Don't fully understand it. Hope to contact him as my great grandfather was Stephen Jewett, IV, and I have a lock of his hair. Jim

  8. How exciting, Jim! Hair has a tendency to get contaminated with other people's DNA from handling it and a lot of labs won't test it. However, if I were you, I would "hold" on to it until technology advances more. It would be FANTASTIC to be able to get DNA for your great grandfather!!!