In less than a year 23andMe has surpassed its annual goal in recruiting individuals for the Global Genetics Project, which will help diversify our research database and drive inclusion of understudied populations.
This rapid recruitment came despite many of the participants coming from communities for which 23andMe previously had few or no reference data.Launched in early 2018, the Global Genetics Project aims to enroll more than 10,000 people over two years from communities in Africa, Asia, Oceania, and the Americas, who are not currently well represented in genetic research. The data will help diversify 23andMe’s database and thus improve results for our customers. It will also boost genomic studies in underrepresented populations worldwide.
“We’re encouraged by how quickly we have been able to recruit so many participants,” said Joanna Mountain, Ph.D., 23andMe Senior Director for Research. “Part of 23andMe’s mission is to ensure that everyone, no matter their ancestry, benefits from the insights being gained from the human genome.”
23andMe has undertaken this initiative primarily to improve results we provide to our customers from different ethnic groups, but also to help diversify the genetic research we do. Currently, more than 90 percent of research into the genetics underlying health conditions is on individuals of European descent alone.
The Global Genetics Project is not the only effort 23andMe is undertaking to improve diversity in research; we are also collaborating with individual academic researchers working with even more understudied communities across Africa, Asia, and the Americas. 23andMe’s Populations Collaborations Program has already helped researchers collect data from populations in Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola. Next year our team will announce new collaborations with scientists working with other underrepresented communities in Africa.
The Global Genetics Project and the Populations Collaboration Program are part of a years-long effort to improve diversity in our genetics research. This effort goes back almost eight years, to when 23andMe launched its Roots into the Future initiative. For that work, 23andMe enrolled 10,000 African Americans interested in participating in genetic research, to garner more insights into health conditions among African Americans. Then in 2016, 23andMe created the African Genetics Project, to study people with recent African ancestry. More recently our researchers have been working with the National Human Genome Research Institute on an African American Sequencing Project, to create a new reference panel for health studies by qualified researchers around the world.
The Global Genetics Project is part of this same effort to improve diversity in genetic research, so that more people can benefit from future scientific breakthroughs. These efforts will enrich not only our understanding of human genetic diversity, but also yield insights relevant to individuals from some of the communities who are underrepresented in genetic research.
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