Complex Made Simple

Ancestry sites are a booming business. Is your DNA data sold to pharma companies for $$ millions?

Finding who your ancestors were and meeting relatives you never knew existed is fantastic. but companies could be profiting on your DNA data

People have discovered everything from an unknown heritage, to family secrets, to a genetic predisposition to diseases Now, many genetic explorers are taking their personal journeys a step further by travelling to the lands of their biological ancestors By the start of 2019, 26 million people had added their DNA to four leading databases

US presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren has now abandoned her controversial claim of having Native American heritage when her DNA tests showed she had only minuscule amounts of Indian ancestry.

In fact, anyone reading this may have more Apache blood that Warren and not know it.

Humans today are a patchwork of genes passed on from generation to generation stretching millions of years. Yet who we are is preserved like permanent fingerprint evidence thanks to our DNA, a physical real-life library of information of our past heritage.

First in 2016 and then again in a preprint posted earlier this summer, scientists discovered that around 3% of Neanderthal DNA — and possibly as much as 6% — came from modern humans who mated with the Neanderthals more than 200,000 years ago.

Regardless of which side of the evolution theory you are, this fact is food for thought for those of us modern people who think we are on the edge of discovery and knowledge. Just think we could have had a great great great…uncle whose only purpose was to beat the pulp out of anyone standing in the way of his daily cuisine, other humans being on the yummy dish/recipe of the day.

Read: Polymers, drones, gliders, gadgets even cells are committing suicide in mass. Here’s why

Who are we? Find your roots with DNA companies

Several DNA companies now offer you the chance to quickly discover who your ancestors were and from which parts of the world.

With these tests, people have discovered everything from an unknown heritage, to family secrets, to a genetic predisposition to diseases such as breast or ovarian cancer, Parkinson’s disease or late-onset Alzheimer’s.

For Only €59 you can uncover your ethnic origins and find new relatives with our simple DNA test.

“Find new relatives you never knew existed through your shared DNA,” one of these companies, MyHeritage said, claiming they helped millions find new family members, and that they boast 9.9billion historical records, 3.5 billion people in family trees, speaking 42 languages.

Another company says you can discover more about your DNA story in more regions with more connections out of 1000+ regions worldwide and more ways to discover what makes you, you with ancestry going to a specific group of individuals from 1,000+ years ago.

“Get an overview of the diverse group of people who share your DNA with DNA Relative Finder, and get an opportunity to opt-in to connect with people who share DNA with you – and message them,” says 23andme.com, another prominent DNA company.

Recently, cheap and simple do-it-yourself DNA tests from companies like 23andMe, MyHeritage, and Ancestry.com have made discovering your genetic heritage as easy as mailing in a DNA swab.

23andMe results will now come with AirBnB recommendations in one’s DNA match countries to help take the hassle out of booking the trip.

Now, many genetic explorers are taking their personal journeys a step further by travelling to the lands of their biological ancestors.

Since 2014, Airbnb said it has seen a whopping 500% increase in the number of guests travelling to places connected with their ancestry.

Read: Cloning pets and animals now common practice. Is cloning humans next?

How does DNA testing work?

Using a kit mailed to your address, a simple cheek swab (no blood or spit), takes just 2 minutes. Mail the package to the DNA company labs using an enclosed envelope, and voila! Within 4 weeks time, you can find out if you have royal blood, have a serial killer in the family or you are the heir to a fortune left by a dead relative whose will is still valid.

Read:Saudi Arabia’s pharma market to top $10.74 billion by 2022

DNA Data breach

It is estimated that by the start of 2019, 26 million people had added their DNA to four leading databases, operated by Ancestry, 23andMe, MyHeritage and Gene by Gene.

In 2016, 23andme began selling access to anonymised data to more than 13 drug firms. Genentech reportedly paid $10 million to look at the genes of people with Parkinson's disease, while GlaxoSmithKline has reportedly paid $300 million for access to the database.

Joyce Harper, a professor at UCL Institute for Women's Health, has used two of these databases to trace her family tree. But she questioned whether inputting information into a DNA database to "unlock relatives" was GDPR-compliant.

"Those that put their DNA in the bank have agreed to be in the database. They then build up their family tree with information about relatives who have not consented," she said.

Here’s what the 23andMe privacy policy says: “If you choose to consent to participate in 23andMe Research, 23andMe researchers can include your de-identified Genetic Information and Self-Reported Information in a large pool of customer data for analyses aimed at making scientific discoveries.”

And most consumers don’t opt out, according to data from 23andMe, because they believe such research can help find cures and advance science.