Thursday, March 12, 2015

23andMe hires former Genentech executive Richard Scheller

From Forbes Magazine, Matthew Herper:

In Big Shift, 23andMe Will Invent Drugs Using Customer Data

23andMe, the Google GOOGL +1%-backed personal genetics startup, will no longer just sell tests to consumers, or genetic data to pharmaceutical companies. This morning, it announced that it plans to start inventing medicines itself.

It’s not just talk. The company has hired Richard Scheller, who led drug discovery at biotech icon Genentech for 14 years before announcing he would retire in December, and who has won some of science’s top awards, including the Lasker Prize, often referred to as “America’s Nobel,” and the Kavli Prize.

“I wanted a new challenge, I wanted a new area of science to learn more about, I wanted to see if we could really take advantage of the full potential of the human genome and thought that this is the best place to do that,” Scheller says. He will start next month with the title of Chief Scientific Officer and head of therapeutics, and could eventually have a staff of dozens.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Why Native Americans are concerned about potential exploitation of their DNA

From the Genetic Literacy Project:

Why Native Americans are concerned about potential exploitation of their DNA
Arvind Suresh | February 2, 2015 | Genetic Literacy Project

Image via Boston Public Library (Creative Commons)Image via Boston Public Library (Creative Commons)

Until the advent of genetic genealogy, knowing your ancestry meant combing through old records, decoding the meaning of family heirlooms and listening to your parents and grandparents tell you about the ‘good old days’. For anthropologists and archaeologists interested in going back even further in time, the only reliable means of understanding human history were trying to interpret ruins or remnants of skeletons or other information uncovered at the site of remains.

DNA testing has changed all that, allowing us to delve far deeper into our past than before and with a much higher degree of accuracy. Although there are many issues stirred by DNA testing, none is more provocative than interpreting our family and tribal ancestries.

Nowhere is this more apparent than among the Native American tribes in the United States. I recently wrote about a large scale genetic analysiss among the American population by personal genetics and genealogy company 23andMe, using its extensive database to begin to decipher the ancestral origins of various ethnic groups in the United States.

(Continued at the link above)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Sometimes the answer is a tree in the forest: my paternal mtDNA - U5a1b

In order to find the mtDNA haplogroup of my deceased Father, Denval Perkins, I have been trying to get female line relatives of my Grandmother, Eleanor "Nellie" Walker Inman Perkins, to do either the autosomal test at 23andMe, because it also gives a limited mtDNA haplogroup, or an mtDNA test at Family Tree DNA. Because he and his half and full siblings are all deceased, I have asked his niece, but she has finally decided not to test. I then asked some of my Grandmother's sisters descendants but they also refused to test.

This week I used the Charting program in Legacy Family Tree to go back to my Grandmother's Grandmother, Mariah Moses Manning, and trace her mtDNA descendants. When I examined the chart I realized that two of those female line descendants had already tested at 23andMe and had the mtDNA haplogroup designation of U5a1b. This mtDNA haplogroup is considered one of the oldest European mtDNA haplogroups. It is currently concentrated in the Baltic and Scandinavian countries. This location ties into my Fathers's Y DNA haplogroup of R1a1a (R-176.1) which is mainly found in Scandinavia and Scotland.

My Father's known matriline:
Denval Perkins (1921-1974);
Eleanor "Nellie" Walker (1891-1965) - 1) Francis "Frank" Inman and 2) Henry Franklin Perkins;
Rutha Manning (1867-1928 - Andrew J. Walker;
Mariah Moses (1832-1873) - Jacob H Manning;
Martha Richardson (1814-1869) - 1)Edmund DeBerry Moses and 2) William Manning;
Elizabeth Davis (1778-1860-70) - John Richardson.

Locations covered are Whitley Co., KY and McCreary Co., KY. See the US Census reports for 1850 through 1930.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

US National Institute of Health Policy on Genomic Data Sharing

NIH Genomic Data Sharing Policy

Genomic research advances our understanding of factors that influence health and disease, and sharing genomic data provides opportunities to accelerate that research through the power of combining large and information-rich datasets. To promote robust sharing of human and non-human data from a wide range of genomic research and to provide appropriate protections for research involving human data, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) issued the NIH Genomic Data Sharing Policy (GDS Policy) on August 27, 2014 in the NIH Guide Grants and Contracts (available at, and in the Federal Register (available at on August 28, 2014. The GDS Policy and related documents are available at:

The GDS Policy applies to all NIH-funded research (e.g., grants, contracts, intramural research) that generates large-scale human or non-human genomic data, regardless of the funding level, as well as the use of these data for subsequent research. Large-scale data include genome-wide association studies (GWAS), single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) arrays, and genome sequence, transcriptomic, epigenomic, and gene expression data. Supplemental Information to the GDS Policy provides examples of genomic research projects that are subject to the Policy.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

10th Annual FTDNA Conference for DNA Project Administrators

The 10th Annual FTDNA Conference for DNA Project Administrators was held last weekend, 10-12 October 2014. I was unable to attend this year.

Two main announcements were

1) the reduction in the cost to transfer 23andme version 3 autosomal dna results and AncestryDNA autosomal results to FTDNA for matching purposes to $39.00 fro $69.00. In addition, a free transfer can be made which will allow one to see their 20 top matches at FTDNA before deciding to either pay the $39,00 to unock all FTDNA matches, or recruit 4 more persons to transfer their results so your matches are shown to you without cost. Details are expected to be on the FTDNA web site this week.

2) The Deep Clade 2.0 test will be developed with the haplogroup admins to allow a quicker determination of the location of a person within the Y DNA haplogroup tree. In the past year over 10,000 SNPs were added to the ISOGG Y Haplogroup tree. This test will be a less expensive route than the Big Y test.

Details of the Conference are on the blogs of Jennifer Zink, Ancestor Central and Roberta Estes, DNA Explained. I am sure more people will be posting this week.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Personal Genome Project: Comments on GA4GH Data Sharing Draft

Comments on GA4GH Data Sharing Draft

JUNE 30, 2014

by Madeleine Price Ball

The following is a copy of our comments as submitted through the online interface at

These comments pertain to the International Code of Conduct for Genomic and Health-Related Data Sharing – DRAFT # 6, produced by the Regulatory and Ethics Working Group of the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health. That draft document can be found at this URL:

Our most important points are the first two. The first suggests an explicit mandate to inform individuals, families, and communities regarding identifiability of their data. The second suggests individuals, families, and communities from whom data is derived also be considered as potential data sharing recipients.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

My current autosomal matching results at AncestryDNA, 23andMe and Family Tree DNA (FTDNA)

My current test stats:


  • 298 pages of matches with 50 people per page for approximately 14,900 persons. Only two given as 2nd cousins. Neither one confirmed yet. No family tree and one private.
  • 6 pages of Hints. I have gone through 4 pages checking the pedigree links. Waiting for a known 2nd cousin's results.


  • 2879 matches.
  • approximately 380 sharing genomes
  • approximately 30 relationships found in pedigrees.
  • 3 known first cousins. Matching range from 17.9% to 15.9 to 12.5% 42, 42, 35 segments.
  • 1 known second cousin, 3.10%, 13 segments.
  • 2 known third cousins, 3.05% and 1.49%, 13 and 4 segments.
  • 5 known third cousins once removed. Range is 2.45%, 1.32, 1.26, 0.78, 0.52 and 11, 4, 6, 3, 3 segments.
  • Some of these are related through both of my parents.
  • Waiting for a half-first cousin's results to get my paternal grandmother's mtDNA haplogroup and find out if one of her maternal ancestors was Native American.


  • 113 pages at 10 people per page for approximately 1130 FF matches.
  • Closest unknown match is predicted 2-4th cousin. 73 cM.
  • 10 X matches 2 males and 8 females. Relationships not found.
  • 15 Know relationships.

My 2nd cousin's 23andMe Countries of Ancestry graphic is much more complete than mine at 5cM and 1+ ancestor including Colonials.

Big failure at all services:

  • No or incomplete family tree. This should at least cover the Great Grandparents and better, the Great Great Grandparents.
  • Let us know if you are adopted so we can help you.
  • Check setting to be sure Private is only applied to living persons.
  • No dates or locations given makes it hard to match a person.
  • If at 23andMe, include info on Rootsweb or Ancestry tree or GEDMATCH in your Profile.
  • Response rate is low at all services.

Friday, June 06, 2014

23andMe has changed the treatment of "Close Relatives"

Christine at 23andMe has posted a change to the tratment of "close Relatives" [1st cousins and closer] in DNA Relatives.

Prior to tonight you had to opt-in to "Show Close Relatives" if you wanted to see 1st cousins or closer relatives in DNA Relatives. As of tonight everyone will show Close Relative unless you opt-out of DNA Relatives. More details are available in the News and Announcement forum at 23andMe:

While this is a much wanted feature change for genealogists and adoptees, some people may not want to know about previously unknown siblings or children, birth-parents, etc.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Another 23andMe Job Advertisement: Scientist - Human Subjects Research

Another job advert from 23andMe:

Scientist - Human Subjects Research
Job Location:
Mountain View, CA
Great package and free genotyping for you and a friend!
Benefits, stock options, and CalTrain Go Pass!

Job Description:
Do you enjoy laying out the pieces of a scientific story so that non-scientists can understand it? Do you feel that regulation makes sense, but only when it’s sensible? Are you motivated not only by getting things done, but by making sure they’re done right? Do you think the operational part of “human subjects” is “human” and not “subjects”?

In addition to being one of the biggest players in the direct-to-consumer genetics world, 23andMe is also performing cutting-edge research on an unprecedented scale. We are looking for an experienced scientist to work with our research team to help develop and execute creative yet rational solutions to complicated regulatory issues. This individual would assist in preparing and implementing international human subjects research protocols to allow us to execute our wide variety of projects while prioritizing the interests of our research participants and customers. Our research program is incredibly dynamic and we are looking for someone who would enjoy the challenge of doing things right while keeping up with the pace of a Silicon Valley company.

The successful candidate will possess the following:

-Ph.D. in a biomedical science
-Experience writing human subjects protocols, conducting human subjects research and working with IRBs (experience conducting research in non-US countries a plus)
-Excellent communication skills, both written and oral
-Ability to independently set and meet deadlines
-Good working knowledge of statistics and modern human genetics concepts
-Ability to work in a dynamic environment with individuals of diverse backgrounds

Please submit a writing sample, such as a scientific publication or grant proposal, of which you were a primary author.

Contact Information:

About Our Organization:
23andMe is the leading personal genetics company. We are dedicated to helping individuals understand their own genetic information through DNA analysis technologies and web-based interactive tools. Our mission is to personalize healthcare by making and supporting meaningful discoveries through genetic research. Combining web development, computer science, genetics, social media, and informatics, 23andMe is at the forefront of a new era in personal genetics.


Looks like they are trying to meet the FDA requirements. Interesting line:

-Experience writing human subjects protocols, conducting human subjects research and working with IRBs (experience conducting research in non-US countries a plus) to end Y DNA and mtDNA testing. Will continue autosomal DNA testing [AncestryDNA]

Posted at the Blog:

We’re always looking to focus our efforts in a way that provide the most impact, while also delivering the best service and best product experience to users. To that end, we’ve decided to retire some of our services: MyFamily, MyCanvas,, Mundia and the Y-DNA and mtDNA tests.
We will note that the AncestryDNA (autosomal) test will continue to be available for purchase. Only the y-DNA and mtDNA tests will be retired.
- See more at: