Flickr/Leon Brocard A 23andMe testing kit. Google-backed DNA startup 23andMe launched in the UK on Tuesday after its genetic testing kits were banned in the US last November.
23andMe was founded by Anne Wojcicki, wife of Google co-founder Sergey Brin, in 2006.
“23andMe’s mission is to ensure that individuals can personally access, understand and benefit from the human genome. The UK is a world leader in genomics and we are very excited to offer a product specifically for UK customers," Wojcicki said in a statement today.
For £125, customers order a spit kit online. A saliva sample provided by the person is sent to a lab in the Netherlands, according to The Guardian. The company returns DNA results that offer information about your ancestry and health. For example, the results from 23andMe could help someone determine how likely they are to have a bad reaction to a certain drug or what genes they have that are associated with certain diseases. The name 23andMe is derived from the 23 pairs of chromosomes in a human cell.
23andMe The customer can register their details on the company's website, so that health reports are displayed on a personal homepage throughout the screening process (see the picture on the right).
Some people are sceptical about what is being sold to consumers, though. With the launch, the UK's Department of Health warned the public that they should "think carefully" before paying the £125 and using the assessment service, The Independent reports . The government agency cautions that "no test is 100% reliable". The BBC says the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has also questioned the reliability.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned 23andMe from marketing its testing device at the end 2013 after the company failed to prove that its personal genome service was accurate. However, the company is now working with the FDA to review the decision and gain approval.
The Department of Health also says the UK version of the product is very different from the US and the test kits have been approved by the Research Ethics Committee. Some of the potential health risks identified by the service that were of concern in the US have been removed, the BBC notes. Also, because the service is not marketed as a "diagnosis", the service does not need approval from the MHRA and meets European guidelines, the MHRA said.
Here's a video by 23andMe:
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