Three New Research Projects from 23andMe

23andMe received more than half a million dollars recently from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for three research projects. The grants support some of the important online genome-wide association studies 23andMe has pioneered – in this case one grant will go towards research into the genetics of allergies and asthma. But the NIH money will also support two other research projects that help push our work into new realms. One project will develop methods for assessing the accuracy of new sequencing technologies in clinical applications, while the third grant supports a project to develop new survey and data collection tools that can be used in whole-genome sequencing research. Principal Scientist and statistical geneticist Dave Hinds is spearheading the research into asthma and allergies by leveraging the more than 100,000 people in our database who have consented to participate in research. As part of the grant, Dave plans to partner with experts in the genetics of asthma and allergies. Our research platform gives the team working on this project a bit of a head start because we have about 25,000 customers participating in research who also report having one or more allergies. About 8,000 say they’ve been diagnosed with asthma. This gives us two large cohorts to help us begin the work that could provide breakthroughs to help so many more people. Allergies and asthma affect as many as one in five Americans, making better understanding of the genetics behind these conditions an important public health priority. We are also excited by the research being overseen by Brain Naughton, our Founding Scientist. The project, “Development of DNA Sequencing Data-Quality Metrics for Personal Genomics” will be important for laying the groundwork for the eventual broad adoption of whole-genome sequencing. Before that can happen however, we must ensure that the results are accurate and create standards for how that is measured. Brian and his team will analyze about 150 exomes (including 50 new exomes sequenced for this project) and 100 whole genomes to investigate false positive and false negative rates for variants located in known disease genes. Finally, Nick Eriksson, also a Principal Scientist and statistical geneticist, will lead the development of tools that would improve the reliability of online self-reported data.  The long-term goal of this multi-phased project is to accelerate the research 23andMe currently does and increase the scope and reach of that research.
  • Congratulations on your success in landing the grants.

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  • I know someone who has been diagnosed with Lyme disease and other tick spirochetes as well.
    Does the 23 and me test show if a person is able to get rid of Lyme disease? Dr. Shoemaker says the HLA,DRB,DBQ typing will show this. Is the 23 and me test similar to it? Thanks.

    • ScottH

      The short answer is no we don’t have any reports that are specific to Lyme disease. That said there is a very active community discussion around Lyme disease. While there is at least one study that singles out a SNP associated with responses to lyme disease. This is rs11209026 which is in the IL-23R gene. The study that looks at associations with responses to lyme disease either isn’t strong enough or it hasn’t met other conditions our curation team deem appropriate to report out the associations. That said we do have a report that looks specifically at that SNP and its association with a the relatively rare autoimmune condition called Ankylosing spondylitis. This conditions results in chronic inflammation of the spine and the joints.
      Thanks for the note.

      • Jonathan L

        I’d also be interested in HLA-DRB information for different reasons.

  • Kathleen Keane

    I am excited. I am very interested in 23andme for one specific reason: Medical research. My beautiful 19-year-old daughter passed away last year from complications of epilepsy. I believe that with genetic research there may be a breakthrough which would help others who suffer from this serious and heartbreaking disease. I am hoping that 23andme can help in two ways: with medical research and with finding my living relatives who may have children who suffer with the same disease as my daughter did. Maybe we can help each other. I also hope that 23andme can help with diagnosing young children who have problems in school in ruling out or in Asberger’s and other learning disabilities which prevent children from learning properly and can be confusing to teachers and social workers. I read Matt Ridley’s Genome years ago and have been excited about the prospect of genetic research ever since. May God richly b less you in your research endeavors – you have the potential to make the world a much better place and heal thousands if not millions of people. Godspeed.

  • 23blog

    Thanks Judith, I will forward you concerns to our researchers.

  • 23blog

    Hi Judith,
    I’ve forwarded your concerns to our survey team and they’re taking a look, and may make some revisions based on this input. Thank you very much.