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Decode Throws Hat into Consumer Genomics Ring

This article has been updated from a previous version to include additional information about Decode's plans.
 
NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Decode Genetics said today it will join the small pack of companies racing to take the lead in making genomics personal, by offering a subscription-based genotyping service that allows customers to “get a detailed look at their own genome.”
 
The company said the DecodeMe service will use a cheek-swab sample and a password-controlled personal account to give customers analysis about their own genomic information, including knowledge about genetic variants associated with risks for common diseases, ancestry, and traits such as hair and eye color.
 
Decode CEO Kari Stefansson said during a webcast this morning that the service has two components: the genotyping service and a secure website.
 
In the genotyping portion of the service, Decode will measure up to a million different DNA markers and then annotate those markers and put them in the context of disease risk. Subscribers can then visit the website, where they “can take their genome and examine it in the context of the literature. That is the first time this has been done,” said Stefansson.
 
Decode is not the first firm to announce that it will offer genomics services for the consumer market.
 
In May, California-based start-up 23andMe, backed by an investment from Google, said it plans to offer a similar service that will offer “personal insight into ancestry, genealogy, and inherited traits.” Illumina is providing the genotyping tools for 23andMe’s service.
 
While Decode has not announced whose genotyping tools it is using in the DecodeMe service, the firm has an alliance with Illumina dating back to the spring of 2006 to co-develop and commercialize DNA-based diagnostics using Illumina’s high-multiplex genotyping platform. 

In September, another startup, Navigenics, said it has teamed with Affymetrix to create its offering, which also will be a web-based service. The company last week said that it has begun taking orders for its service, but doesn't plan to begin testing until early next year.

 
Stefansson emphasized that the firm is not offering a genetic test. “We strongly encourage you not use this to make medical decisions,” he said during the webcast. “If there is something that raises concerns when you look at your result … you can ask a question that will be answered by our experts.” The firm may also refer subscribers to a genetic counselor, he added.
 
Decode is offering its services at an early promotional cost of just under $985. Stefansson said during the webcast that although the firm hasn’t set a firm date for the end of the promotional period, “it is likely that is going to be at the end of December. Then what the price going into the future will be will depend a little bit on the response that we get to this.”
 
By comparison, Navigenics plans to offer its service for $2,500, GenomeWeb Daily News sister publication In Sequence reported.
 
Subscribers’ genomic information will be continually updated as new data is discovered in the genomics and genetics areas, Decode said.
 
“I think that what we have done here is ... put together an opportunity for the man on the street to develop a deeper understanding of human genetics," said Stefansson. 
 
Investors responded positively to the announcement, sending Decode's shares up nearly 20 percent to $3.65 in late Friday trade on the Nasdaq.

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