Sunday, April 10, 2011

23andMe has early DNA Day Sale

CeCe Moore in a post on her Your Genetic Genealogist blog today provided information about a sort of under the radar sale by 23andMe. As some of you know know April 15th has been designated DNA Day. Family Tree DNA (FTDNA), a partial competitor of 23andMe,  has been trying to create buzz on Facebook by saying that it will announce a sale on DNA Day if its page attracts 12,000 "likes" by then. It appears that 23andMe has fired a preemptive shot.

If you are thinking of getting a DNA test, this competition may be good news. However, a word or two of caution is appropriate in understanding the offerings of the two companies. They only compete head on on some of their products.

23andMe offers autosomal DNA testing and testing for certain health related genes. The results can be used to predict mitochondrial (maternal) haplogroups for everyone and both mitochondrial and Y-chromosome (paternal) haplogroups for males. Autosomal testing can also detect most relationships up to third cousins, about half of 4th cousins, and a few more distant cousins. It cannot help you follow particular paternal (surname) or maternal lines as some other tests assist. Basically autosomal testing is good for close relationships in recent generations. Under the current marketing plan, 23andMe requires a monthly subscription for ongoing access to your data and any new developments. It also offers health questionnaires and correlates the results with the DNA of members to try to identify new relationships between genes and health conditions.

FTDNA offers autosomal testing for both males and females similar to that offered by 23andMe. For now at least, FTDNA requires an upfront fee for testing but no ongoing fee for access to their database. In addition to autosomal testing, FTDNA offers a range of Y-chromosome tests from the entry level 12 markers to the recently announced 111 markers. These tests are very useful for paternal surname projects. FTDNA also offers three levels of mitochondrial tests that can be taken by both males and females. These are useful in determining deep ancestry for both genders along their maternal line (mother's, mother's mother's....line).

While the two labs offer some similar products, each offers some that the other does not. Their pricing strategies are different--at least for now. So if you are about ready to test, carefully examine both the product lines and pricing structures. But do it quickly. 23andMe's sale will probably be over before the sale begins at FTDNA later this week. An over-simplification of the differences between the two is that FTDNA offers tests more specifically aimed at genealogists but 23andMe offers tests of interest to genealogists and offers some direct to consumer health information as well. Check out CeCe's blog because 23andMe may not be showing the sale on its site yet. If you have had experience with either or both labs, I would appreciate your comments below.

All of us benefit from the competition. For now at least it is difficult to make direct comparisons of test results from one lab to the other.

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