23andMe’s mission: connecting all people on the DNA level or social networking XY.0

globalsimilarity and ancestry serviceIn these days, tech companies with MISSIONS are flourishing. I guess you’ve already heard about the company, whose mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. The newly launched, Mountain View based 23andMe seems similar in the mission respect. 23andMe is the first (already successful) and web (or rather Google) – based biotech company offering personalized genome service to its customers including interpreted and highly probabilistic information on the health risks of the customer’s genetic profile. But 23andMe has much more to offer in these early days and I think that mainly the biggest mission behind the company will be to show how different people are irreversibly connected and similar through their genetic material and variants. The company’s Global Similarity Map based on the comparison of the evaluated SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) variants amongst customers and the Ancestry Service based on the by and large maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA. They will make this mission more explicit by introducing a social networking service around shared genotypes or as it claimed in the Wired article on 23andMe:
This is also where a novel use of social-networking tools comes in. Wojcicki envisions groups of customers coming together around shared genotypes and SNPs, comparing notes about their conditions or backgrounds and identifying areas for further scientific research on their own. “It’s a great way for individuals to be involved in the research world,” Wojcicki says. “You’ll have a profile, and something almost like a ribbon marking participation in these different research papers. It’ll be like, How many Nature articles have you been part of?'” (Social networking will be included in version 2.0 in a matter of months, Avey says.)

The idea of social networking based on genetic similarities and vulnerabilities: this is social networking XY.0 and the challenge for any other social networking sites will be huge. Also this mission could be interpreted as a nice and humanist aim, just like Google’s, although the interpretation space is bigger than that.

11 thoughts on “23andMe’s mission: connecting all people on the DNA level or social networking XY.0

  1. Hi Ricardo, yes I’ve just coined the term today while writing the post. Just like the expression “blogterview”. 🙂 That is the linguistical joy of blogging for me. My first version was social networking X.0 because I wanted a reference to the final stage of social networking based on biology, than the more direct chromosomal hint XY.0 seemed perfect so I modified the title.

  2. The challenge is going to come from privacy groups. When it comes to social networking via email addresses it is one thing, but through genetic makeup, it’s quite another, especially in the mind of the consumer.

    I love the idea though, but I don’t think the world is ready for social networking X.0 … yet(Attila you’re a genius).

  3. There’s a company http://www.knome.com that says it will sequence your entire whole-genome (instead of a chip-scan). They don’t give a price on their site though… One thing I liked about DeCodeMe’s offer VS 23andMe’s was the fact that DeCode said you could download your own copy of their gene scan. 23 seems to want to have a central database model, and wants to keep it to themselves. It’s going to be interesting to watch play out….

  4. There are security issues against both the web-based central database and the downloadable, deliver-to-home models. If crucial genetic information on a targeted person is on the web, than it could be hacked and decoded by others, on the other hand if you can just download it and browse it with a desktop Genome Explorer, than it could be physically stolen. For regular update purposes, i.e. modify the database with the newest scientific results on gene variants, mutations and risk factors, the centralized, web based model is faster and more simple.

  5. Bud, you seem to cut/paste the same reply to any website mentioning 23andme! I did wonder where you got the information that 23 would ‘keep it to themselves’, I just listened to the webcast and they said the exact opposite

  6. I signed up for deCODEme after carefully reviewing the offerings. deCODEme is using an Illumina BeadChip twice the size of 23andMe (1M vs 550,000 SNPs). Additionally deCODEme seems to value privacy a lot more – AND – you can download a copy of the results and remove data from their servers if you choose. (Read 23andMe’s privacy statement – they reserve the right to do a lot with your very personal data!)

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