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From Great-Great-Grandparents to Medical Research

Through the combination of its genealogical database with genetic and health information, is "transforming itself from a retiree's hobby into a medical research juggernaut," Fusion's Daniela Hernandez writes.

To do so, Hernandez notes that will have to grapple with the same issues as 23andMe, especially governmental regulation, as it moves toward consumer DNA testing. 23andMe received a cease-and-desist letter from the US Food and Drug Administration November 2013 for its spit kits that would tell consumers about their risk for disease. Recently, 23andMe has received clearance to sell its Bloom syndrome test directly to consumers.

And, Hernandez says, is hoping to learn from that example, as it is getting ready to speak with FDA about offering disease risk information. It also is looking to sell anonymized data from its consumer database of some 800,000 people to pharmaceutical and biotech companies.

"We actually do think that health is a pretty natural extension of the core mission to help everyone discover, preserve, and share their family history," CEO Tim Sullivan tells her. "We're exploring ways that we could participate in health and provide our users with health insights, for sure … ways that we could leverage the data we've aggregated to support research efforts, similar to what 23andMe has done with Genentech and others."