Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Ancestry re-enters the DNA testing market

Ancestry.com's (officially The Generations Network) announcement earlier in the week that they are re-entering the DNA testing field is welcome news. It increases competition.

Ancestry previously had a brief fling with DNA testing. They entered the field in January 2002, in a partnership with Relative Genetics, a Sorenson Group company, with a 24 marker Y-DNA test, a mitrochrondrial DNA test for both the HVR1 and HVR2 regions. Both Y- and mt- DNA tests retailed for about $220US with promotional discounts offered. A five marker mtDNA test for native American heritage was also marketed. They exited the field in July of that year; I'm not aware a reason was ever given. Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) offered a conversion kit so that folks who had tested with Ancestry could transfer results to their database.

This week's announcement brings the DNA analysis expertize of Sorenson Genomics into partnership with the database and marketing expertize of Ancestry. The Sorenson group is closing their Relative Genetics retail operation, which responses at my presentations indicate only had a tiny market share.

The news release mentions that results of the Relative Genetics' DNA database will be included in Ancestry.com's database. Will the partnership be ethical enough to offer an opt out, or even better an opt in, provision? Many people who test are hesitant to publicly release their DNA results preferring the type of matching conducted confidentially by FTDNA.

Despite the strengths I suspect it will be a challenge for the partnership to gain market share. For most people it is the ability to compare your DNA results with others that counts in selecting a test company. Family Tree DNA has the largest database and, unless significant numbers of their clients transfer their results to Ancestry, it seems likely FTDNA will maintain this advantage for quite some while. Look for Ancestry to offer some attractive opening specials to gain market share.

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