Global Genetics Project


Fast Recruitment for 23andMe’s Global Genetics Project

December 3, 2018 By 23andMe under 23andMe Research

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 the 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.”

Improve Results

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.

Diversity Initiatives

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.

Check out the landing page here to learn more. Tags: African American Sequencing ProjectAfrican Genetics ProjectdiversityFeaturedGlobal Genetics ProjectPopulations CollaborationresearchRoots Into The Future


Genealogy and DNA The Right Way

Genealogy and DNA the right way means the process of selecting and retaining your data and test results.

I have written about DNA and Genealogy several times underscoring the need to research, consultation and reviewing the databases, methods, and DNA testing processes out in the marketplace today. Nothing has changed much over the last year. People of color are just not in large numbers in any database around the world.

Please read the article posted on CAAGRI.Org website accessed November 16, 2018.

Genetics: Skin Color and Race

Skin color and ‘race’: Genetics reveal complicated relationship

| | December 7, 2017

For much of recorded history, skin color has been loaded with powerful social meaning. Skin color plays a major part in how we define race. It also plays a significant role in racism. New studies of the genetics of skin color, though, have begun to shed light on how wrong those assumptions about the relationship between race and skin color really are.

In a new study of indigenous southern African people published … in the journal Cell, researchers … report that the number of genes involved in skin pigmentation increase in number—and therefore also complexity—the closer they reside to the equator.

[C]olor lines are, in essence, meaningless. Our skin color is the result of many, many different genes which work together in different combinations to produce different colors of skin. Many of those genes are shared across racial, cultural, and geographic boundaries.

These new studies of skin color also suggest a second theme: In genetics, the vast majority of data has been gathered from Northern Eurasian populations, and that in turn has created a biased and incomplete portrait of how the genetics of things like skin color really work.

[Editor’s note: Read full study

Read full, original post: How the Genetics of Skin Color Challenges Antiquated Ideas About Race

forwarded from the Genetic Literacy Project arch 12, 2018

The African American Sequencing Project 23andMe

The African American Sequencing Project 23andMe

The African American Sequencing Project

In a move to improve diversity in genetic research, this week 23andMe will start recruiting eligible customers to participate in the creation of an African American sequencing panel for research.

With the help of a grant from the National Human Genome Research Institute, 23andMe scientists will use contributions from customers who’ve consented to participate in this research to create a reference dataset and make the de-identified genetic data available to other qualified and vetted genetic researchers at educational and research institutions around the world.

“We are very excited about this project and its potential to make a difference in people’s lives,” said the project’s Principal Investigator, Adam Auton, a 23andMe senior scientist and statistical geneticist. “This work will help address the genetic  research disparities for African Americans in particular, something that has long needed attention.”

Only a fraction of the genetic research studies done to date include people with African ancestry. According to recent data focusing on this disparity,  only about 19 percent of all published genetic research includes data from non-Europeans, and only about two percent are conducted on those of African ancestry. While the bias towards European studies reflects many complicated logistic, systemic, and societal issues, it has a huge impact on what scientists can determine about the genetics underlying diseases and other conditions that impact not just non-European populations but everyone. A recent study by the University of Maryland School deftly explains the implications of these disparities:

“As long as ancestry-related biases are not addressed, and most studies continue to predominantly sample from European populations, the genetics community will face challenges with implementation, interpretation and cost-effectiveness when treating minority populations.”

To help address these disparities, 23andMe is recruiting African American customers who are are willing to have their genome sequenced. Those who are interested would then be asked to complete an additional level of consent, that would allow 23andMe to add their de-identified genetic data to a library of genetic and phenotypic data. This means the library would not receive any personally identifiable information  connected to the genetic and phenotypic information. This library of data is managed by the NIH and used by qualified scientific researchers.

As part of this work we will ask a subset of our African American customers, who have consented to participate in research, if they would be willing to participate and have their DNA sequenced to become part of this reference panel. Reference panels are important because they allow scientists to improve the accuracy of genome wide association studies, which drive much of genetic research conducted today.

When a customer of 23andMe sends in their saliva sample, they are genotyped at hundreds of thousands of sites that are known to vary between individuals. However, there are tens of millions of variable sites in the genome that are not genotyped. By having access to a large number of fully sequenced genomes — a sequence panel — researchers are able to use “genotype imputation” to infer or predict the genotypes at these unobserved positions. Much like a code breaker filling in missing letters in a message, scientists — using algorithms and data from whole genome sequences panels — can predict, or impute, the missing letters of genetic data. Having a sequence panel like this gives researchers a tool to study conditions that are specific to African Americans.

Ultimately, the sequence panel data will be shared with the NIH, who will make it available to other researchers. This in turn will expand scientists’ ability to make genetic discoveries for African Americans and help build a broader understanding of how genetics influence diseases and traits across multiple populations.

This is the latest in a number of efforts by 23andMe to help alleviate some of the existing disparities in genetic research. Last year, 23andMe was awarded another NIH grant to use “admixture mapping” as a means to improve the detection of disease-causing genetic variants among people of African, Latino and Asian ancestry. In 2011, 23andMe launched its Roots into the Future® project to study the genetics of disease specific to African Americans. The African Genetics Project is a part of this growing effort to improve our knowledge of African genetic diversity.



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