Gene and Tonic: Competition for 23andMe, Four Tips for Attending AACR 2015, and "Swab Stories"

An Old New DTC Co. on the Move

Let’s start with a bit of trivia.  What company has resorted to selling genetic ancestry testing online direct to consumers?  Hint:  the company is located in the San Francisco Bay area, has banked more than 800,000 samples from customers all over the world, and is slowly transforming itself into major biomedical player.

That’s right.  You got it.  It’s   

This week, an article over at Fusion revealed a company on the move.  The CEO of, Tim Sullivan, says the company is “exploring ways that we could participate in health and provide our users with health insights." was founded by a couple Brigham Young University Grads--has been gathering customers’ family history data for decades.  Now they realize the gold mine they’ve been sitting on is much bigger than scoring free passes to the Mormon temple.

Watch out 23andMe.  You’ve got competition.

Four Tips for Attending AACR in Philadelphia

Now, if you work in life science, no doubt you are either headed to or know someone that is headed to the biggest cancer research show of the year,  AACR 2015.  In about a week, 18,500 scientists, doctors, patients, business folks will  descend on Philadelphia to figure out how to get patients to survive cancer long enough to get Alzheimer’s.

For conference goers, we thought we’d offer some helpful hints for your stay in Philly.

First of all , if you’re from California, enjoy using all the water you want.  Go for it.   Stay in the shower for an hour.   Revel in the fact that you don’t have to order water at the restaurant table.

Second--and this tip comes from city leaders.  They ask, what scientist has time to go to a museum?  Here’s a hands on suggestion for duplicating an experiment by one of  America’s first great scientists.      You don’t even have to leave the conference building or your hotel.  Get hold of  a metal key--your room card won’t work--and plug it into any electrical socket.   City leaders are quoted as saying, “This is an easy way to feel what Benjamin Franklin felt as he discovered the conductive properties of electricity.  No driving through crowded city streets.  And any electrical outlet in the city will do.”

Third, if you do have time for a museum, we’ve found just the one for you: the Mutter Museum, a medical museum located in the city center.  

Here you will find:

-a malignant tumor removed from President Grover Cleveland’s hard palate

-a piece of tissue removed from the thorax of Abraham Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth

-slides of Albert Einstein’s brain

-and our favorite,  a giant nine foot long human colon that contained over 40 pounds of fecal matter

Our suggestion for lunch:  the equally enticing Philly Cheesesteak.

Fourth, we suggest you skip the Liberty Bell.  It’s just not all it’s cracked up to be.

Swab Stories

Finally, last week we came up with 10 reasons to  have your genome sequenced.  To find out that you married your first cousin, we joked, or to have that sperm donation from college come back and haunt you in the form of  your own kid.  Well, it turns out these aren’t jokes.

Have you heard of the DNA truck?  This is a lab on wheels that has been going around New York City for five years now swabbing people’s cheeks to answer their most private genetic dilemmas.  Well, it was announced this week that the DNA truck will be the subject of a new reality TV series on VH1.  That’s right.  We can now watch as a woman finds out that last night’s date was with her brother.   The title of the show:  Swab Stories.  I’m not kidding.  The entrepreneur and soon to be star of the show, Jared Rosenthal, says, “DNA is a human need.  I hope people see that this is a lot more universal than they realized.”

Which leaves us with the question:  Who’s your daddy?


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