Razib also notes some anonymous employee reviews of the company on GlassDoor suggesting poor morale among 23andMe workers; it’s hard to make too much of these given their uncertain provenance, but one of them
is well worth a read.
In an economic environment where the sorts of disposable cash required for people to invest in luxury goods like personal genomics is scarce, DTC genetic testing companies were always going to have to work hard to stay afloat – and the bankruptcy of 23andMe’s competitor deCODE Genetics
showed that this is no easy feat.
Razib also points to a recent entry on Avey’s blog
warning of an impending NY Times article by reporter Andrew Pollack that will apparently cast a very negative light on the personal genomics industry. Avey launches a pre-emptive strike on Pollack, describing his impending piece as “a desperate attempt to make some headlines” and noting a growing number of anti-personal genomics stories in the mainstream press:
So if Andrew Pollack decides to take a swipe at this fledgling industry, he won’t be the first, or the last. It’s an easy bandwagon to jump on, along with the other nay-sayers, but there’s a growing wave of data-empowered people who won’t bat an eye, and who may just help lead us into a new age of personalized health that Andrew himself may find quite beneficial. Now that’s something to write about.
A friend of mine always likes to point out that personal genomics is transparently going through the Gartner hype cycle
(see figure above), and right now we’re firmly wedged in the trough of disillusionment, following a peak of inflated expectations for which personal genomics companies themselves must take the bulk of the blame.
It’s going to take some time before we clamber up onto that plateau of productivity; it will require major changes in technology (particularly from chip-based genotyping to sequencing) and interpretation targets (e.g. from small-effect common variants to large-effect rare variants). There’s no question in my mind that personal genomics does have a bright future ahead, but it will be in a very different form than current offerings; you can get a glimpse of it in recently-launched carrier testing company Counsyl
Will 23andMe survive the transition? If you’d asked me a year ago I would have laughed at the possibility that a heavily Google-backed company with such an impressive collection of talent could fail to weather the storm; over the last twelve months my estimation of this probability has been somewhat revised. I would still be utterly shocked if 23andMe actually went under, but unless the company can pull a bold new move out in the next few months it does risk seriously losing its edge in the personal genomics market.
Interesting times indeed.