NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – A new Australian genetic testing firm called Life Letters launched today and began marketing an at-home test people can use to check whether they carry mutations that if passed onto their children may cause severe genetic disorders.
The test, called Tiny Letters, gauges carrier status for 145 of the most common and severe genetic disorders, according to the company. Priced at $900 for a single person and $1,700 for a couple, the test gauges carrier status for conditions such as cystic fibrosis, Tay-Sachs, hemophilia B, spinal muscular atrophy, fragile X syndrome and hemochromatosis.
Customers can purchase a saliva sample collection kit online and also learn about the genetic disorders. Results are provided by a genetic counselor to help consumers understand the test report.
According to Life Letters, it has partnered with Emory Genetics Laboratory in the US to perform analysis for its testing service. Life Letters highlighted that Emory performs a "comprehensive genotype test" that gauges a large number of genes associated with a disease. For example in the case of cystic fibrosis, many screening tests only check for 10 to 20 of the most common gene variations frequently associated with the disorder, while Tiny Letters examines 142 variations, the company said.
Life Letters was founded by entrepreneur and philanthropist Sam Prince. Its advisory board includes ethicist Simon Longstaff, Nobel Prize winner Brian Schmidt, and David Weisbrot, who led the Australian Law Reform Commission's efforts to examine the intellectual property laws and practices related to genetic testing, as well as genetics pioneers Leslie Burnett and Kristine Barlow-Stewart.
In addition to launching the pre-pregnancy carrier screening tests, Life Letters said it will also launch pharmacogenetic tests to assess how genetic variations impact people's ability to respond to commonly prescribed drugs, such as analgesics, statins, anti-depressants, and anti-platelet drugs. The PGx tests, called Script Letters, start at $175.
Both the carrier screening and PGx tests can be ordered by the general public or by doctors. The company said it takes four weeks to receive results.