February 19, 2014
23andme Offers Full Exome Sequencing For $999

The Exome is that portion of your genome that gets translated into proteins. 23andme is going to start sequencing those 50 million letters of the genome for $999.

To put that in perspective, the entire genome is about 2.9 billion bases. But lots of that does nothing. The part that gets transcribed and translated into peptides to form enzymes and other functional pieces is a lot more important.

This is a pilot project and they've already closed it.

In light of the US Food and Drug Administration's blocking of 23andme's service to interpret DNA variations we face a real problem with getting our DNA interpreted. We need a start-up outside of the United States to sell interpretation services.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2014 February 19 09:41 PM 

jp straley said at February 20, 2014 7:30 AM:

I have always assumed that as a US citizen, I own my own body. But it is as if I am illiterate, and must have a third party read my own "book." Just as we have freedom of speech and expression, we should likewise have the choice to read our own book, discuss it with whom we choose, and make of it what we will. No book is more personal or unique.

By restricting 23&Me from offering interpreting services the gov is merely engaging in another nanny-state (that is to say, soft totalitarian) power grab. Alternatively, it is rent-seeking. Neither are acceptable.

I can't think this would stand up to a determined challenge.

not anon said at February 21, 2014 4:50 PM:

you have a it gene if we knows it does something doesn't it have name? database time.

Tj Green said at February 22, 2014 3:22 PM:

Not a good time to be a pioneer in America.

George Weinberg said at February 23, 2014 10:03 AM:

If I understand correctly, the FDA is "just" preventing 23andme from interpreting results of the analysis, it is okay for them to give you the raw data dump.

Engineer-Poet said at February 23, 2014 10:32 AM:

So the company could supply the raw data dump, and a web site anywhere (not under FDA authority) could do the interpretations.

cq said at February 23, 2014 2:40 PM:

There is already a site taking raw data downloads from 23and me... I don't know how comprehensive it is, but it is free and easy to use: GeneticGenie, I think.

Nick G said at February 23, 2014 3:14 PM:


Oddly enough, it was corporate rent-seekers who invented the term "nanny-state" as a justification for lobbying against limits on their corporate power.

This case sure looks like rent-seeking: drug companies are desperate to keep control over such data. They're terrified that really innovative medicine will put them out of business.

Oddly enough, drug company shareholders and employees will get sick and die, just like everyone else. You'd think they could see beyond their narrow, short-term self interest.

Randall Parker said at February 23, 2014 6:54 PM:


Yes, you can still get the raw data dump. The problem is that there is no longer a revenue stream to fund people to sit around and analyze all the genetic research literature and put together improved analyses.

What I'd like to know: Could a company set up in the Caymans, offer extensive genetic analyses, accept US credit cards, and sell info services to anyone who can visit their web site? Or could they accept payment some other way and leave no standing for the FDA to go after them?

I'm guess a Chinese company could do it. But what about payments?

Geran Hitt said at February 23, 2014 7:48 PM:

I just dipped my toe into the dna sequencing pool for a few hours. What I found out is interesting. Firstly, this $999 offer from 23&me seems to be from 2011. It is noted 2011 in the top right of the page. I noticed because I read about that announcement in an old blog post when I was searching around on this topic. I won't give links (google for scienceexchange), but I found a site that lists many of the labs out there doing exome and genome sequencing with pricing provided for some. Just missed a special exome sequencing special for $450 that ended in December. For whole genome, found a place for as low as $1500. The real question is, besides the sequencing, and there seems to be loads of labs out there that can do it at a reasonable price, is how to get interpretation. One place I found is in Belgium (Gentle Labs - I'm not affiliated.) $1990 for exome sequencing and that seems to include interpretation. They require a doctor, but will provide a doctor to explain results if you don't have one (30-60 minute Skype teleconference.) Further, you can revisit the data at your leisure or even download the raw data. Plus, there is a handy iPad app! :-) Things certainly are moving apace in this market. I look forward to the future.

Geran Hitt said at February 23, 2014 8:12 PM:

Not to spam the comments too much, but if you want to see what the future holds check out that Gentle labs site. For all I know they are awful scumbags, but the site is awesome and is what our future looks like. The sample results look like they would give our FDA complete fits. I also found this interesting, "We have a free subscription service that allows you to stay informed about the latest discoveries in human genetics, directly applied to your own DNA." Looking deeper, from the FAQ, it seems they use a US lab to actually run the sequence. That lab is in Georgia and charges $998 for the exome sequencing according to scienceexchange. So, the other 900 is the hosting and interpreting of the data. Seems a fair deal. And, yes, Randall, they take VISA.

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