Sarah South, VP of Laboratory Science at Ancestry DNA
0:00 The ancestry of Ancestry.com
4:40 Why the ancestry testing boom?
7:46 Testing in a supportive health ecosystem
14:55 Model doesn’t require FDA regulation
19:41 An “opportunistic” check
25:20 How are you going to pitch this to your customers?
Just in time for Black Friday, Ancestry.com has launched new health testing. Thanksgiving week (the company calls the shopping holidays the “Turkey Five”) has been kind to what is the largest DNA testing company in the world. Back in 2017, their ancestry test competed with the Instapot for Amazon’s top sellers on the biggest shopping day of the year. To date Ancestry has sold over 15 million DNA tests.
Ancestry’s approach with the health testing shows that they have learned from the field's fumbles: the new tests, which will deliver “actionable health and wellness reports,” will be available to consumers but ordered by an independent physicians network and supported within the health ecosystem.
Sarah South is here to talk about the new rollout. She's the VP of Laboratory Science at Ancestry DNA. Her CV itself gives a clue as to the smart way Ancestry is going about launching this product. She was previously the VP of Clinical Lab Operations at 23andMe and before that the Lab Director at ARUP Laboratories.
She argues that there is a level for what she calls "opportunistic" testing between the more comprehensive "rule out" testing that clinical labs do, and the level of . . . well, doing nothing.
“We don’t need to have everything in the “rule out” bucket. There are times when I might like to have an “opportunistic” finding. I'm not currently experiencing any symptoms. I don’t know of a strong family history. But I know that there are things that may be subclinical right now. And if I knew about them, I could do something about them. For example, our hereditary hemochromoatosis offering, or the predisposition to develop iron overload. Most individuals are subclinical until they are in their 40s or 50s. But the risk is that if you wait until you are clearly having clinical symptoms, the damage to the liver may be irreversible. ”
Sarah gives other examples of the actionable health variants as well as wellness offerings.
What about the charge often put to 23andMe that these tests are not complete enough but give consumers the impression that they have been completely tested, such as for BRCA. Sarah is on to the answer before Theral can ask it.
She also anticipates the future of health testing in the age of polygenic risk scores.
Join us now for our first interview with Ancestry.com.