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Improvements in Illumina SNP-Analysis Tech Enable 23andMe to Cut 60 Percent Off Cost

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23andMe attributed a recent 60-percent decrease in the price of its personal-genomics service to advances in the Illumina genotyping platform the company uses that enables it to analyze a greater number of SNPs and rare mutations.
 
The company, whose new price makes it the least-expensive of existing whole-genome consumer shops, also expanded its lineage-tracing service through a partnership with Ancestry.com.
 
When 23andMe launched its personal-genomics service nearly one year ago, it came with a $999 price tag. This week, the company reduced that cost to $399, saying it is “democratizing personal genetics and expanding the opportunity for more people to benefit from the genetic revolution.”
 
23andMe has used Illumina's DNA Analysis Beadchips in its genotyping service since it debuted last November. The company said it has recently upgraded from Illumina's single-sample BeadChip platform to the new HumanHap550-Quad+ platform, which reads more than 550,000 SNPs, together with a 23andMe custom-designed set that analyzes more than 30,000 additional SNPs.
 
“By taking advantage of continuing innovation, we are able to introduce a new chip that will give people more relevant data at a lower price,” 23andMe Co-founder Anne Wojcicki said in a statement.
 
23andMe was unable to answer questions about its new offerings and price reduction prior to deadline.
 
Among existing commercial genomic-testing firms, 23andMe is currently the least-expensive. Rival Navigenics' SNP-genotyping service, which uses Affymetrix arrays, costs $2,500. Decode Genetics, using Illumina’s Human1M BeadChip, which the two companies developed in collaboration and which has the ability to read more than one million SNPs for genotyping, has priced its consumer genomics product at $985. New Hope Medical, a clinic that provides “diagnostics and therapies not readily available in conventional medicine,” offers genomic testing for between 12 and 25 SNPs linked to certain conditions for between $475 and $900. Knome's full genome scans cost $350,000.
 

“By offering these new features at a lower price, the company will broaden the opportunity for people to participate in 23andWe.”

However, the non-profit Coriell Institute for Medical Research offers to genotype patients for free. Coriell is trying to recruit 10,000 subjects by the end of 2009, and 100,000 volunteers in total, for a research study exploring the utility of using genomic information to make clinical decisions. The Camden, NJ-based institute provides saliva-sample-based DNA analyses at no charge to all comers. 
 
In an interview with Pharmacogenomics Reporter last week, Steven Murphy, founder of a private personalized medicine practice called Helix Health, said he believes that commercial personal genomics firms currently charge too much for their services.
 
“Say someone comes in and wants to get their SNP chip scanned. We actually don't advise them to get testing from 23andMe and Navigenics,” Murphy said. “Although [Navigenics] provides a great service, the Coriell Personalized Medicine Collaborative ... [offers] another way of getting access to technology without having to pay $2,500 for it.”
 
With the price reduction, 23andMe is hoping to attract more participants to its research effort. “By offering these new features at a lower price, the company will broaden the opportunity for people to participate in 23andWe,” the company said. The first 23andWe project will focus on Parkinson’s disease, through a partnership with the Parkinson’s Institute of Sunnyvale in California.
 
23andMe’s recently launched research effort, called 23andWe, aims to improve the quality of patient data that enters pharmacogenomic-based clinical trials organized by 23andMe; advance the development of tailored drugs; and encourage regulators and medical groups to use genetic information in their medical decision-making [see PGx Reporter 06-04-2008].
 
Like 23andMe, Navigenics is also using its commercial venture to recruit for genetic research studies. 
 
In officially launching its genetic-testing service in April, Navigenics disclosed an alliance with the Mayo Clinic to study how patients understand and use genetic risk information. In addition, the company is in the midst of planning a population-wide prospective study called iPREVENT that aims to study millions of customers over decades to see if they end up getting diagnosed with the disease that their genotypes had predicted them to get [see PGx Reporter 04-09-2008].
 
23andMe also stated this week that the ancestry analysis service it will provide through the Ancestry.com partnership “allows users to trace their genetic lineage and discover the role that their ancestral origins have played in human history.”
 
Ancestry.com’s DNA database contains over 7 billion names in 26,000 databases and includes more than 7 million user-submitted family trees, which enable customers to “trace their roots and connect with distant cousins,” 23andMe said.

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