Feb 8, 2018 - News

23andMe Launches The Global Genetics Project


Encouraged by the success of our African Genetics Project, 23andMe is now undertaking one of its most ambitious ancestry initiatives to date,  The Global Genetics Project.

As part of this effort, 23andMe is reaching out to thousands of individuals with recent heritage from dozens of countries in Africa, Oceania, Asia, and the Americas. This work will help 23andMe expand its reference data sets, improve the ability of our scientists to study groups who are currently underrepresented in genetic research and reveal new insights into patterns of human migration and genetic diversity. The goal is to recruit more than 5,000 individuals over the next two years to participate in this study.

Our researchers modeled the Global Genetics Project using what we learned in doing the African Genetics Project, which launched in late 2016. That effort was successful in quickly recruiting about 1,000 individuals with four grandparents from one of 16 countries in Africa, and the data from those participants is already yielding insights that will improve not just research, but also results for 23andMe customers trying to learn more about their African heritage.

As did the African Genetics Project, the Global Genetics Project will recruit individuals — who are 18 years of age or older and live in the United States —  whose four grandparents were born in one of several dozen countries across the globe. Each participant will be asked to provide a saliva sample for genetic analysis and complete 23andMe’s Family Origins survey. 23andMe believes that the Global Genetics Project will not only enrich our understanding of human genetic diversity, but also power insights into conditions that may impact populations that are underrepresented in genetic research.

To do that, 23andMe is looking for people who are not currently customers and have four grandparents from the high priority underrepresented populations that are part of this project. (Go the the Global Genetics Project page for the full list of all 61 countries.)

While the thrust of the Global Genetics Project is to improve insights into ancestry, it could also help 23andMe conduct significant health-related research within underrepresented populations.  Although for many health-related conditions, ethnicity is correlated with risk, more than 90 percent of the research into the genetics underlying health conditions is on individuals of European descent alone. By diversifying its own data with efforts such as the Global Genetics Project, 23andMe believes it can conduct the kind of research that benefits a much broader community.

This effort is also part of a long standing commitment 23andMe has had to improve diversity in genetic research. From 23andMe’s Roots Into the Future project designed to study the genetics of diseases impacting African Americans, to a NIH-funded project to develop a new way to detect disease-causing genetic variants among ethnically mixed populations. More recently 23andMe began an African-American Sequencing Project. That project, which was partially funded by a grant from the National Human Genome Research Institute. These initiatives all aim to improve diversity in research. Continuing that trend, the Global Genetics Project aims to enroll at least 5,000 participants within 2 years.

Learn more about the Global Genetic Project, including eligibility, here.

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