UPDATE 1-Google-funded 23andMe starts, offers $999 DNA test

(Adds details on site capabilities, background)

LOS ANGELES, Nov 19 (Reuters) - Google Inc-funded 23andMe launched on Monday and began offering a DNA saliva test for $999 per person, which would help U.S. users of the online site learn about disease risk, inherited traits and their ancestry.

Eventually users, who sign up for the saliva test online and receive it by mail, will also be able to participate in research.

“The mission of 23andMe is to take the genetic revolution to a new level by offering a secure, Web-based service where individuals can explore, share and better understand their own genetic information,” said 23andMe co-founder Linda Avey.

Those who are tested may choose to learn their risk for developing certain cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and other illnesses, and get a referral from 23andMe to genetic counselors.

On a fun note, the test could help users learn why they dislike certain flavors or foods, or whether they share ancestry with historical celebrities such as Marie Antoinette, American outlaw Jesse James or “Margaritaville” crooner Jimmy Buffett.

“We believe this information provides intriguing insights into an individual’s genetics, with the goal of expanding the collective knowledge base by enabling active participation in research,” said Anne Wojcicki, 23andMe co-founder, who is married to Google co-founder Sergey Brin.

The company provides the genetic information to users through a secure online account.

Besides Google Inc GOOG.O, the company's other early investors include biotechnology company Genentech Inc DNA.N and venture capital firm New Enterprise Associates.

Competitors to 23andMe include Iceland’s deCODE Genetics and Silicon Valley-based Navigenics, which is backed by $25 million funding from top-flight venture capital firms Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Sequoia Capital and Mohr Davidow Ventures.

(Reporting by Lisa Baertlein, editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

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