Relationships are typically formed around commonalities. In the old days, people came together because they went to the same school, grew up in the same town, or shared the same worldview, etc. Today, connections are formed through shared interests around movies you like on Flixster, the same widgets you like on Facebook, and in the future connections might be made based on the haplotype you share. “What’s your haplogroup?” may become as frequently asked as “What’s your sign?,” said Linda Avey, cofounder and CEO of 23andMe, a high-profile, Google-backed consumer genomic company.
Haplogroup, according to Wikipedia, is a group of haplotypes that share a common ancestor with a SNP (single nucleotide polymorhism) mutation. Linda spoke at VLab’s all-female panel covering investments and trends in consumer genomics. (Click here to see previous post and interview with Navigenics CEO Mari Baker).
Her haplogroup reference underscores the company’s push to educate the masses on who they are inside and to openly share those insights with others. “We enable them (customers) to build networks around their genetics with other people whose interest they might share,” she said to me in a separate interview. Essentially, 23andMe seeks to create social networks around your DNA, with the hopes of gathering more and more information to have a more holistic view of society. In the meantime, someone who finds they have a high propensity to get Alzheimer’s later in life might start a group called, “Late-onset Alzheimer’s – sign up before you forget who your friends are.” And, since 23andMe gives its customers (who pay $1000 a year for the service) the opportunity to search their raw results, someone might presumably create a group for people who carry a certain string of letters in their DNA. I can see it now, Single "ts100978" seeks Single “pr562700” (made up letters of course).
23andMe has received significant coverage in the past few months, partly due to the company’s investment from Google. In total, Avey said that 23andMe has raised about $10 million. According to Avey, Google is "very supportive in us and I think they're interested in this field of personal genetics and where it's heaed." Google is a "strategic" investor, she said.