23 And Me

A month or two ago our daughter Jessica asked us to get 23andMe kits and get our genes sequenced. Jessica wants to add some information from our results to hers so she can better understand her own genetic makeup. So the Gotham Gal and I did it a few weeks ago and we are now awaiting the results.

The 23andMe process requires that you set up a profile on their web service and answer some questions about yourself before submitting the saliva sample for processing. If you wish, you can give them a full health care profile which is almost exactly identical to the interview a new doctor will give you on your first visit (do you/did you smoke, do you/did you drink, are your parents alive, are they healthy, are you allergic to this and that, etc, etc). I went through the entire process and shared all of my medical history with 23andMe in great detail.

So now 23andMe will have a full medical history/profile of me plus my genetic makeup. That’s pretty cool.

I have some suggestions for them as a user.

First, I wish that I could connect my profile on 23andMe with Jessica’s profile on 23andMe as her father. And I wish that I could connect my profile to the Gotham Gal as her husband. In summary, I would like for us to build a family tree on their service so that the work Jessica wants to do can be done automatically by their software. That seems like an obvious thing to do in a service like 23andMe, but I looked around pretty hard and could not figure out how to do that.

Second, I would like to be able to authorize third party services (starting with my doctor’s Patient Fusion service) to access all of this genetic and medical information I have stored at 23andMe. I found the 23andMe API so that’s a good thing. But I could not find a marketplace of third party apps that connect to 23andMe via its API. That would be really useful.

Another thing I would like to be able to do is sync my 23andMe data with my mom’s genealogy data that she keeps on Ancestry.com. I believe she has some basic genetic information there on herself. That would inform my profile in the same way that my data informs Jessica’s profile.

The bottom line for me is that this data (genetic information and medical history) is really powerful stuff. It should not be held in silos. Users should have the power to move it around, connect it up, and share it with their medical providers, family members, and others who can benefit from this data.

This is a big part of our thesis in health care. Users are starting to get control of their own medical data and decide how it will be used and by whom. That will lead to better outcomes for everyone. I am very excited by the potential of what can happen when this is really happening at scale. And that feels like it is right around the corner now.

If you want to get a 23andMe kit, you can do that here.