Roots into the Future: A New 23andMe Research Initiative For African Americans

A recent article in Wired Magazine highlighted how the genome revolution has been skipping most people in the world: 96% of participants in recent genomic studies trace most of their ancestry to Europe. Why? Statistical analysis is simpler in groups tracing ancestry to just one continental region so fewer individuals are needed to make discoveries. Although African Americans typically trace about 20% of their ancestry to Europe, studies to verify previous findings in this population have not been done for many diseases. Our understanding of how DNA influences disease risk in people with mostly non-European ancestry has a lot of catching up to do.

23andMe hopes to bridge this growing divide through Roots into the Future, a research initiative addressing the needs of the African American community. Our partners in the research initiative include Dr. Henry Louis Gates and the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute at Harvard, as well as advisors from academia, industry and the 23andMe community. Our goal is to enroll 10,000 participants who self-identify as African American, Black, or African in order to rapidly accelerate genetic research in the African American community.

Roots into the Future will help determine how genetic factors contribute to the development of disease in this population. Which genetic associations identified in Europeans also apply to African Americans? Can we discover new genetic markers linked to conditions of particular relevance to the African American community, such as diabetes, prostate cancer, and heart disease?

The initiative aligns with 23andMe’s broader mission of empowering individuals to understand their own genetic data. And 23andMe’s unique web-based research platform can accelerate critical research in this community.

Project participants will receive free access to their personal genetic data used for the research, as well as health and ancestry interpretations of the data. As the project progresses, participants can expect to see additional relevant reports and features.

Roots into the Future will launch at the end of July at the annual conference of the National Urban League in Boston. To learn more about the project, or to sign up to be notified when registration becomes more broadly available, go to www.23andme.com/roots.