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23andMe to Fund Sickle Cell Carrier Awareness Program With DNA Testing, Reporting

NEW YORK – 23andMe said Thursday that it will provide complimentary DNA testing and access to its Health + Ancestry reporting service as part of a campaign to raise awareness of sickle cell carrier status.

The South San Francisco, California-based consumer genetics firm is teaming up with nonprofit organization Sickle Cell 101 to offer the service to as many as 1,000 adults in the US with African ancestry or ancestry from other regions with high incidence of sickle cell disease. This collaboration builds on a program that 23andMe launched in April with Morehouse School of Medicine and the Sickle Cell Foundation of Georgia.

23andMe's Health + Ancestry service will provide program participants with sickle cell anemia carrier status reports based on DNA testing, while Sickle Cell 101 will offer personalized consultations and education on topics such as the differences between sickle cell trait and sickle cell disease. 23andMe is also providing unspecified monetary support to Sickle Cell 101 for this program.

"At Sickle Cell 101, our holistic approach to advocacy includes prioritizing both sickle cell disease and sickle cell trait awareness," Stephen Boateng, the organization's VP of partnerships and scientific collaborations, said in a statement. "While our primary focus is deservingly on educating and advocating for improved funding, care, and treatment options for sickle cell disease, this collaboration with 23andMe reinforces our commitment to also addressing a historical healthcare disparity that has deprioritized access to testing and reliable information to the community most impacted by sickle cell."

According to 23andMe, about 1 in 13 African Americans have one copy of the HbS variant in the HBB gene, making them carriers of the sickle cell trait.

"We have both research projects and an ongoing awareness campaign focused on sickle cell," 23andMe VP of Research Joyce Tung said in a statement. "Adding Sickle Cell 101's resources and expertise will allow us to expand that effort to more people."