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With more health data comes more responsibility.
MyHeritage today announced the expansion of its direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic testing line by launching MyHeritage DNA Health+Ancestry test. It’s the company’s first move into health data, a blossoming space where potential and concerns abound.
The new tests include 11 genetic risk reports, including one for hereditary breast cancer that analyzes 10 pathogenic variants and 15 carrier status reports. The product also has a polygenic risk score for Type 2 diabetes and details a percentage breakdown of ethnic origins and matching to relatives through shared DNA.
The reports include conditions where specific genes contribute to the risk, such as late-onset Alzheimer’s disease and late-onset Parkinson’s disease, and conditions associated with multiple genes, such as heart disease.
“Our vision is to integrate our successful family history technologies with the new health product in innovative ways that bridge heritage and heredity to deliver deeper insights for our users,” said Gilad Japhet, founder and CEO of MyHeritage.
After 16 years, MyHeritage is finally joining the likes of many other DTC genetic testing companies that offer more detailed health reports to its consumers.
Last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted authorization to 23andMe to offer reports on pharmacogenetics, which reveals whether a patient’s genetic variants are associated with their capacity to metabolize certain medications. This marked the first time a genetic health risk test had been approved.
Since then, 23andMe received clearance for a genetic test that determines a customer’s risk of developing a colorectal cancer syndrome. The company also offers a genetic health predisposition report on Type 2 diabetes.
These reports, including MyHeritage’s new products, give genetic testing companies a great deal of sensitive data. Many experts have questioned whether this could result in privacy violations.
Genetic testing companies may also sell consumers’ personal information to drug developers and researchers.
For instance, 23andMe has a $300 million deal with GlaxoSmtihKline that enables the flow of genetic data to the pharmaceutical company to aid in the development of new drugs.
If someone’s health data gets into the wrong hands, there is potential for abuse, especially if the genetic data is linked to a specific person.
“Imagine a political campaign exposing a rival’s elevated risk of Alzheimer’s,” Peter Pitts, former FDA associate commissioner, wrote in Forbes. “Or an employer refusing to hire someone because autism runs in her family.”
While privacy concerns still exist, 23andMe, Ancestry, MyHeritage, Helix and Habit all signed a document to follow DTC genetic testing best practices.
Genetic tests can provide potentially life-saving insights for consumers, but the influx of data being collected needs to be handled appropriately.
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