Needed Diversity in Research

It’s been a perennial problem —biomedical research that largely leaves behinddiversity(iStockBlog) women and people with non-European ancestry.

A newly published study by researchers at the University of California San Francisco found that despite efforts to recruit in under represented communities in the United States there continues to be huge disparity in research among African Americans, Latinos and Asians. (In a separate but related issue there is also a huge disparity in research grants awarded to minority scientists.)

There are many reasons for the lack of diversity — historical, cultural, economic and social — but whatever the reason the dearth in research among non-European populations undercuts the effectiveness of the science and the effectiveness of certain treatments.

We know that a person’s gender and ancestry plays a role in their risks for certain conditions. For instance the risk for type-2 diabetes and prostate cancer is much higher in African American men, but there is not yet enough research that includes African Americans in enough numbers to offer to fully understand why that is. You can see similar problems in research around the risk for breast cancer in women of different ancestry. We know a lot about the risks among women of European ancestry because of research, but less about the risks among African American women.

In the hopes of improving our own research, 23andMe launched “Roots into the Future,” specifically to recruit 10,000 African Americans interested in participating in research.

That effort has helped 23andMe improve the diversity of our own research cohorts. It has also improved the kind of results we can report back to customers. 23andMe has succeeded in attracting a diverse group of customers who want to participate in research, but we could do more.

  • Solstice

    I have been debating to buy the DNA test for months now. I was going to buy it back in early October but since the price was raised I’m not too sure. I know that there a lot of changes, but I what I need to know is if the test still shows ancestry breakdowns. I have taken other tests and none of offered breakdowns for Asian ancestry. I want to know if 23andme still offers breakdowns for East Asian ancestry. Because if I spend $200 plus shipping for a single test and I don’t get the specific results I need I will be thoroughly disappointed.

    • 23blog

      Hi Solstice,
      We do still offer breakdown for East Asian ancestry. As we add additional reference populations we will make improve the grainularity of the results. Our Asian population reference data sets includes data many different populations including: Native American (Colombian, Karitiana, Maya, Pima, Surui), East Asian, Japanese, Korean (South Korean), Yakut, Mongolian (Daur, Hezhen, Mongolian, Oroqen, Tu, Xibo), Chinese (Chinese, Han, Hong Kongese, Taiwanese), Southeast Asian (Burmese, Cambodian, Indonesian, Lao, Malysian, Filipino, Thai, Vietnamese), South Asian (Afghan, Balochi, Bangladeshi, Brahui, Burusho, Hazara, Indian, Kalash, Makrani, Nepalese, Pakistani, Pathan, Sindhi, Sri Lankan, Uygur)

      • Ravleen


  • 23blog

    Customers in the US will now receive ancestry, wellness and trait reports. The product — which includes carrier status — is the first direct to consumer genetic test to have reports that meet FDA standards.

    • Heaven

      does this mean a Yes?

      • 23blog

        It’s a yes, but the wellness reports included in the new experience are not the same as the old product. They are for carrier status, wellness and traits. We do not currently have risk reports at the moment.

  • Heaven

    where is the facility where the testing is done? Couldn’t find info. Thanks

    • 23blog

      We have two labs on of the US west coast and the other on the east coast.

      • Heaven

        That is interesting. I live close to Los Angeles and my kit is arriving today
        North Carolina. Why they didn’t send it to West Coast? My order shows live in Southern California. You would think, they would send shipping label for West Coast. Confusing

        • 23blog

          That is interesting. We do code where kits are shipped to based on the zip code so I’m not sure why it would have been sent to North Carolina. It should not delay the processing of your sample however.

  • Baaarb

    Do you test for all those nationalities listed? I have a disease (Hagerman’s factor 12 def) that affects mostly Japanese people but that wasn’t listed in my results I am European

    • 23blog

      We look at 31 reference populations across the globe, but many of our health and trait reports only apply to people of European ancestry. This is because the published scientific studies that support those reports were done only on people of European ancestry.

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