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Conversation with Joanna Mountain. Part 3

Joanna Mountain, Senior Director of Research at 23andMe.
Ok, so it is because of the information. You gather lots of information in 23andMe and then you release the ones you are allowed and convinced of the nice results. Because, what I can tell you is that the way the results are presented is very nice and very direct. How would you convince people to take the 23andMe test? And which test should people take? Especially early on, the main way that people learned about the tests was through their family and friends, and so there was sort of a virality where people would learn about it and decide to take the test. And that… until recently, the only option was the full health + ancestry. So there was just one package.
And, more recently we’ve divided it because we understand there are some people who are less comfortable with the health side nd would prefer at least start with the ancestry side. And I find it, you know, even if we’re just getting the ancestry, people learn a little bit of genetics, and maybe get some more comfort in their confidence, and maybe are then in a position to upgrade at the health side as well. So that’s one path people take. And… But I do think, you know, if we have had some commercials and some… leaned more towards the ancestry service suddenly more towards the health to emphasize that.
So both of this, you know, depending on what’s going on, without over-providing, we may emphasize. So I’ve we ever hope a new bunch of new health reports, we may emphasize that. Which will be very, very interesting, no doubt. Do you think also that you’ll be able to increase the part of traits? Do you see the day that we’ll be able to make a picture of someone just having the genome, for example? Yes, so… I mean, I think, that’s going to get closer, and closer. I mean… now, I was just looking at some traits and for me…. (it… I forget what the…) my hair color used to be much more red, and my genetics, you know, supports that.
It’s more likely than an average to have red hair. But for freckling it says less likely, or likely to have fewer freckles, which is, doesn’t make any sense, because I’m absolutely covered in freckles so, you know, that I expect will change over time as our data. Because many of the traits we now power with a machine learning approach, where we train using data from, you know, tenths or hundreds of thousands of people. So, we’re getting, getting closer, and closer to being able to give a picture. And it may not be a physical picture, but maybe about things like… Are you a morning person? You know… How well do you sleep? And that kind of thing.
Maybe behavioral traits as well as physical ones. So I think we’re going to get closer and closer with this new algorithms that don’t just… you know, look at one or a few genetic markers, but look at maybe typically hundreds of markers now. And maybe in the future thousands, or tenths of thousands. Yeah for the markers, you are typing quite a lot. So the information in all the individuals is there. All that is around what is being called personal genomics, so the genome of single individuals. Where do you see the main developments for the future? More in ancestry, more in traits, more in diseases? How is it going to develop in the future?
Well I think that, you know, it won’t be that far forward in time when everybody, especially everyone over the age of eighteen, will have their full genome, and interpretations based on that, which I think well… you know… because once you have the full genome you may have more rare variants that need interpretation and that’s going to require a very large numbers of people to be behind that research. But you will start getting more interpretations for rare variants. And that will be very powerful for people in this area of personal genomics. No doubt. And there will be many, many more diseases that will be related to our genome.
And last, but not least, is the part of personal genomics with specific diseases. Maybe cancer would be the interesting case, in which the personal genome is always fully necessary. So, it was a publication today in Nature on just the personal genomics in different types of cancer. Yeah, that’s very exciting to look for too. Alright, thank you. Thank you very much. So we have seen today how the interest of personal genomics is growing… We have already plenty of possibilities but the interpretation is going to improve, next in the future. Thank you.

Joanna Mountain, Senior Director of Research at 23andMe.

She is responsible for overseeing research projects, ensuring the potential of research participants and developing ancestry product offerings.

In this interview with Joanna, we will focus on the interest of personal genomics. We will also look at how companies like 23andMe deal with ancestry and health analysis and at the main challenges they face.

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