Who’s first? Happy First Birthday, commercial personal genomics!

pioneersWhat do you think, which company launched the first commercial and comprehensive personal genome service (based on a genome-wide SNP scan) on the market and exactly when?

We have 2 candidates here in the ring deCODE Genetics (founded in 1996, Iceland) and 23andMe (founded in 2006, USA), the Amundsen and Scott of personal genomics. (please don’t take the analogy too seriously)

The when is important from a historical point of view because that day will be considered as the birthday of this infant industry. The birth month and year is November 2007 for sure. That means we are just approaching the 1 year anniversary of the commercial personal genetics/genomics industry and this sounds like a good timing to think about the achievements so far and the future ahead.

But let’s figure out the exact date first and here I think we should consider the day on which a personal genome service was launched for the first time directly available to costumers and when the first public orders were taken.

Using this measure it seems that the historically first personal genome service deCODEme was actually launched by deCODE Genetics on Friday, November 16, 2007. The official launch of 23andMe’s service was on Monday, November 19 although the first public orders could have taken even on Saturday, November 17. The media coverage of 23andMe was far more intense than of deCODE, including early service testing professional journalists by Wired and the New York Times. Likewise the blog coverage including me amongst others.

Over at the deCODE blog there was a bitter post apropos of the TIME Magazine announcement last week that the Personal Genome Service™ from 23andMe, Inc. has been named 2008’s Invention of the Year. In the post the company name 23andMe was not even mentioned 1 time:

deCODE staffers were buzzing about Time magazine’s announcement this week of its best invention of 2008: the retail DNA test. As the creators of deCODEme, the first personal genome scan on the market, deCODE staff members were not about to quibble about the date (deCODEme was actually launched on November 16, 2007).

Indeed, the value of deCODE’s capabilities and service is perhaps best demonstrated by the launch of web portals offering similar services based largely upon deCODE’s discoveries, and Time’s article underscored the potential of this new field by devoting considerable attention to the high-powered tech luminaries who have come chasing deCODEme’s tail.

The truth is that both companies are real pioneers in this very competitive landscape and that is something beyond doubt.

Happy First Birthday large-scale, low cost commercial personal genomics! (Perhaps the timing of Nature’s recent Personal Genomics Special is not just a coincidence.)

Here’s my gift video:


12 thoughts on “Who’s first? Happy First Birthday, commercial personal genomics!

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