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Ancestry.com wants to use DNA to estimate people’s risk of disease

Ancestry.com has spent the last two decades reading people DNA in order to help them learn about their family history, but now it wants to find a more constructive way to use those reading skills. That’s why the company has been trying to get the FDA’s permission to use people’s DNA to estimate things like their genetic carrier status and risk of diseases. It’s an interesting idea, and obviously one that could prove to be immensely beneficial to users, but it needs to get past the FDA before it can actually turn that idea into something real. 

Ancestry.com, a company that’s all about the past, wants to tell you about your medical future. The amateur genealogy company is seeking permission to use its DNA kit to tell people about everything from their disease risk and genetic carrier status, to how well their bodies might react to a specific drug — uses the FDA doesn’t allow for direct-to-consumer genetic tests. At least, not yet. Ancestry is in the “very early stages of a conversation with the FDA,” Ancestry CEO Tim Sullivan told The Verge. “We think it’s totally appropriate that the FDA has stepped in to pretty aggressively regulate direct-to-consumer genetic tests — and we’re just starting from that perspective, and trying to work very closely with them.”  Ancestry’s health push is fairly recent. Before this summer, the company’s primary focus was to help users learn more about their family. The company’s $99 DNA kit is part of that mission; people who send in their saliva for genomic analysis can learn about their ethnic origins, ancestors, and relatives. In July, the company struck a deal that gave the Google-incubated Calico — a medical research company that wants to “solve” the diseases of aging — the ability to look for markers of human longevity in its anonymized genetic database.

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