Sunday, June 12, 2011

News from 23andMe and FTDNA at SCGS 2011 Jamboree

I attended the lectures of 23andMe's Joanna Mountain and FTDNA's Bennett Greenspan at SCGS 2011 Jamboree, as well as participated in the ISOGG meeting's panel discussion. Below are some interesting tidbits that I learned while there.

23andMe News and Tidbits: 
23andMe recognizes Relative Finder as the company's most engaging feature. This is good news for customers interested in Ancestry tools. In the coming weeks at 23andMe, Relative Finder will undergo the following key improvements:
1.  23andMe will be launching a new interface for Relative Finder. It will display the birthplaces, current locations and ancestral locations (if provided) of anonymous matches. (I am told that I will be a beta-tester, so I will post screenshots when/if that happens.)
2.  23andMe customers will be able to sort their matches by mtDNA and Y-DNA haplogroups, most likely by the end of the month.
3.  23andMe customers will be able to report confirmed relationships for their predicted matches.

23andMe just had a paper on their Parkinson's Disease research accepted for publication in PLoS Genetics. (No news on publication date yet.)

23andMe's total number* of individuals likely to self-identify as:
1000 African American
3500 Latino/Hispanic
5500 East Asian
3400 South Asian
4900 Southern European
6200 Ashkenazi Jewish
56,000 Northern European
1,000 First generation from two continents
*These numbers are as of April 2011 and, obviously, approximate. JM-"In general, these are non-overlapping sets, but there are some individuals who do not fall into any of these categories."

Slide presented on June 11 at SCGS  Jamboree 2011
Courtesy Katherine Borges

Joanna is "very optimistic" about the future of full sequencing for the Y-chromosome and expects it to happen "very soon", however 23andMe has no plans to offer a separate Y-chromosome sequencing product.

FTDNA News and Tidbits:
1.  The 2011 FTDNA DNA Administrator's Conference will be held November 5th and 6th in Houston.
2.  FTDNA has found previously undiscovered mutations in ~10% of all new Full Sequence mtDNA samples.
3.  FTDNA sold 200 "Walk the Y" tests during their last sale. So far they have completed 100 of these samples and found 140 new SNPs. The "Walk the Y" tests take five times more plate space than the Full Sequence mtDNA tests. As a result, FTDNA can run only two of these tests per day.
4.  FTDNA is still planning to allow uploads of 3rd party data to their Family Finder database. (Very soon!)
5.  FTDNA has shipped out over 207,000 kits since inception and 406,000 kits have been sold by National Geographic. FTDNA has 208,000 unique Y-DNA results and 128,703 unique mtDNA results in their database.
6.  FTDNA's Population Finder uses 64 reference populations.

I hope you learned something new. I know I did!
[Disclosure - My company StudioINTV has an existing production agreement with FTDNA that has no bearing on the opinions I express. I also receive a small commission from FTDNA on non-sale orders through my affiliate link, which I use to fund DNA tests. I receive no other compensation in relation to any of the companies or products referenced in my blog.]


  1. I am a new follower of your blog and very interested in this topic. Four years ago I convinced my brother to give me a sample for FTDNA. We got results for both mitochondrial and Y DNA. About a month ago I sent a sample to 23andme. I was very much a skeptic but now I'm very impressed with their results. I feel like your blog will help me get a better handle on what all of this means as well as the potential for its use. Glad I found your blog.

  2. Welcome, Kathy! Please feel free to ask questions when needed. Thanks for commenting.

  3. Thank you Cece for the update from the Southern California conference. Good to know the latest thinking from these two companies. Sorry to hear that 23andMe has to be scratched off my list of potential companies that might be interested in sequencing the Y chromosome. Still attempting to gauge any interest in sequencing the Y from any company. This forum has good information when it comes to sequencing.

    Regards from the E-M35 project and NWISOGG

  4. Hi Kerry,
    Joanna said that is more cost effective to just sequence the whole genome, rather than offer a separate Y sequencing product.
    Thanks for commenting and for the info. Please keep us updated on what you discover re: Y sequencing's availability.

  5. Steven Quake at Stanford is working on the perfect solution. His chip would separate the chromosomes and phase the data while sequencing.

    A new startup company called Noblegen is developing a simplified version of nanopore genome-sequencing technology—a technique that promises high speed and low costs but that usually requires complex instruments to carry out. Nanopore sequencing could give a cost structure that the man on the street can afford.

  6. Got to your site from a blog from where we've discovered some new connections in the Cincinnati Panorama of 1848,which by coincidence was the topic of 1 of my lectures at SCGS11. Small world--perhaps our paths will cross.

    Patricia Van Skaik

  7. arrived 8-22; but the info is relevant to my interests!