Genomics For All

Daniel MacArthur welcomes a new initiative by the personal genomics company 23andMe to offer free genetic testing to 10,000 African-Americans:

Personal genomics has, since its inception, been predominantly a game played by white people. An illustration: recent numbers on the ethnic breakdown of 23andMe customers indicate that of the ~81,500 customers with self-reported ancestry in the company’s database a whopping 74.7% are primarily of European descent. African-Americans are particularly poorly represented in the customer base, comprising just 1.2% (compared to 12.6% of the total US population).

It matters for reasons beyond personal curiosity:

A genetic revolution in healthcare is approaching – or at least that is the hope – and those who have received an education in the SNPs and haplotypes of modern genomics will be better-placed to take advantage. Right now, one of the best ways to gain insight into modern genetics is to dig deep into your own DNA; it would be a shame if such opportunities were only taken up by a select few with defective pigmentation genes.