Jul 26, 2011 - Research

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 percent of participants in recent genomic studies trace most of their ancestry to Europe.


Statistical analysis is more straightforward 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 primarily non-European ancestry has much 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.

Accelerate Research

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. To rapidly accelerate genetic research in the African American community, we aim to enroll 10,000 participants who self-identify as African American, Black, or African.

Roots into the Future will help determine how genetic factors contribute to disease development 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 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 and health and ancestry interpretations of the data. As the project progresses, participants can expect additional relevant reports and features.

Roots into the Future will launch at the end of July at the National Urban League’s annual conference in Boston.

To learn more about the project or to sign up to be notified when registration becomes more broadly available, go to our Roots Into the Future page.

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