Ancestry rolls out more advanced DNA testing to flag risk of heart disease, breast cancer

Ancestry is stepping up its consumer DNA testing using next-generation sequencing developed by Quest Diagnostics.

The family history and consumer genomics company is relaunching its AncestryHealth service with more advanced genetic testing technology to flag cutsomers' risk for developing certain inheritable diseases.

The sequencing-based tests replace Ancestry's previous microarray-based tests, the company said in a release. The tests are physician-ordered, are not diagnostic and have not been reviewed or approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The advanced testing technology will help people better understand their risk for developing certain inherited health conditions such as heart disease, breast cancer, colon cancer and blood disorders, Ancestry said.

RELATED: Genealogy company Ancestry launches consumer genetic health testing as a rival to 23andMe

"When it comes to your health and your family’s health, the more you know, the better,” said Ron Park, M.D. executive vice president of health and DNA at Ancestry in a statement.

"With the launch of AncestryHealth powered by NGS, we are helping people have access to more comprehensive data about their genetic risks—and providing support with understanding those risks—at a time when protecting our health is a major concern," Park said.

Ancestry, a company that uses DNA testing to give consumers information about their family history, moved into consumer genetic health testing as a rival to 23andMe last fall.

Ancestry, which owns AncestryDNA and launched in 2002, is one of the largest direct-to-consumer testing companies in the world with 24 billion records and more than 18 million people in its network.

AncestryHealth genetic health reports (Ancestry)

The company said its relaunched health offering marks a dramatic shift in consumer-initiated genetic testing, which, for the last decade, has largely been based on microarray technology.

Because NGS technology can access orders of magnitude more of the genome, including challenging-to-sequence variants, the NGS technology that powers AncestryHealth does a better job of determining if someone is at greater risk for some of the most common inherited health conditions, according to Quest Diagnostics.

RELATED: JPM20: Health technology company Color scores $75M funding round to scale its infrastructure

In comparison to the more widely-used microarray-based testing technology, AncestryHealth powered by next-generation sequencing achieves about 80% to 90% detection of inherited risk for specific health conditions, according to the company.

The use of the technology can lead to higher detection rates for the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, for example, at a rate four times higher than most microarray-based tests, Ancestry said.

"As the market leader in consumer genomics for more than a decade, we are proud to make an important leap forward in democratizing access to comprehensive genetic health risk detection,” said Margo Georgiadis, president and chief executive officer at Ancestry.

AncestryHealth will provide customers with remote access to genetic counselors in partnership with PWNHealth, an independent network of board-certified genetic counselors, geneticists and physicians, as well as access to a clinical lab report to share with their doctors. 

These services will help consumers better understand their results and make more informed choices, the company said.

Ancestry also aims to create a downloadable family health history record that can be delivered to clinicians and used to help fill out medical forms.

RELATED: Ancestry's Catherine Ball on why the genealogy company just gave UpToDate a $1M grant

Quest developed a faster and cheaper way to perform next generation sequencing to power AncestryHealth, the company said.

"This improvement in automating next generation sequencing will enable genetic screening faster and at much lower cost, and could have profound implications for healthcare in the future, truly empowering better health through actionable insights for millions of people who want to know more about their health risks," said Steve Rusckowski, Quest Diagnostics chairman, chief executive and president in a statement.

"It wasn't long ago that genetic sequencing took months and cost thousands of dollars. Quest's proprietary innovation enables sequencing insights in a fraction of the time at a fraction of the cost," Rusckowski said.

AncestryHealth’s kit will be available in 47 states, not including New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island, for $179.