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

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

The company announced Wednesday the launch of AncestryHealth to offer consumers genotype and next-generation genetic sequencing services.

23andMe, which launched in 2006, gained regulatory clearance from the Food and Drug Administration two years ago for the first direct-to-consumer tests that provide genetic risk information for certain conditions. The consumer genetic testing company has 10 million customers and also offers genealogy reports.

Ancestry, which owns AncestryDNA and launched in 2002, is one of the largest direct-to-consumer testing companies in the world with an estimated 14 million users worldwide, according to MIT Technology Review

Unlike 23andMe tests, which are ordered by consumers, Ancestry's genetic health tests will be ordered by physicians who work with PWNHealth, an independent network of board-certified physicians and genetic counselors.

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"Through a highly supportive and guided experience, AncestryHealth services deliver actionable insights that can empower people to take proactive steps—in collaboration with their healthcare provider—to address potential health risks identified in their genes and family health history," Ancestry executives said in a press release.

The company has long been expected to make a move into genetic testing for health conditions, according to Bloomberg. In recent months, Ancestry has posted a flurry of job openings for health-related positions, including a chief medical officer, Bloomberg reported.

DNA testing companies are expanding into health tests as their next big market. 23andMe signed a $300 million deal this year with drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline. Genetics and health technology firm Color also recently announced a partnership with Verily Life Sciences, Alphabet's health research arm. Through that collaboration, Color will supply participants of Verily's Project Baseline research platform with genetic information.

Ancestry is launching two services: AncestryHealth Core, a one-time, array-based service; and AncestryHealth Plus, a membership service using next-generation sequencing technology to identify more risk categories, such as those related to potentially developing heart disease, cancers and disorders related to blood, the nervous system and connective tissues.

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The physician-ordered laboratory test included in AncestryHealth Core uses genotyping array technology to detect genetic differences and deliver personalized reports related to health conditions such as hereditary cancers, heart disease, blood-related disorders and risks for carrier status of health conditions such as Tay-Sachs disease, according to Ancestry. 

Consumers also get a printable family health history and lab reports to share with healthcare providers as well as access to genetic counseling resources. For new customers, the test costs $149. The AncestryHealth Plus testing service comes with a $199 activation fee and an additional $49 membership fee every six months. The ongoing membership will include quarterly screening updates, the company said.