DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) - A private firm funded by Google Inc launched its Web-based DNA test in Europe on Tuesday, hoping to build on a successful start in the United States, where the $999 service went on sale in November.
Linda Avey and Anne Wojcicki, co-founders of 23andMe, will showcase their service at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, which starts on January 23.
Subscribers to 23andMe mail a saliva sample and, four to six weeks later, get the results online, allowing them to learn about inherited traits, their ancestry and — probably with the help of a professional — some of their personal disease risks.
“We are receiving overwhelming interest in our services outside the U.S. and are pleased to now offer them in Canada and Europe,” Avey said. “We hope to continue to expand our global footprint to additional locations in the future.”
The Web site, which takes its name from the 23 pairs of chromosomes that make up each person’s genome, says it will display more than half a million data points in users’ genomes in a form they can visualize and understand.
The site does not currently make interpretations about a user’s risk for developing such diseases as cancers, Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes, though users could in some cases get help from experts to make some basic assessments.
But the service may prove controversial in countries like Britain, where some experts say DNA tests are often of little value and can trigger unnecessary health worries.
Christine Patch, a member of Britain’s Human Genetics Commission, said two months ago she believed many were a waste of money.
Reporting by Ben Hirschler, editing by Will Waterman