Genetic Recognition

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Genetic Recognition

Late in 2019, popular U.K. grocery store chain Waitrose partnered with the DNA discovery platform DnaNudge.

Late in 2019, popular U.K. grocery store chain Waitrose partnered with the DNA discovery platform DnaNudge. Inside stores was a popup service offering shoppers genetic testing and an app that, based on their DNA profile, would “nudge” them to make healthier choices. The genetic recognition technology from DnaNudge required only a fast cheek swab. Customers could then use the DnaNudge app in Waitrose stores to scan barcodes and assess whether or not foods matched their genetic profile.

“The popularity of consumer DNA testing may help people learn more about their ancestry, but it’s also making it easier to recognize people without their express permission or knowledge. It is now possible to find and recognize about 60% of people in the U.S. who are of European descent, even if they’ve never sent in a sample to 23andMe, Color, AncestryDNA or any of the other testing services now available. That’s because raw biometric data can be uploaded to open-source databases like GEDmatch, which allows users to look for relatives across all of the other DNA platforms, and because of the pervasiveness of other websites (Facebook, government databases) that forensic researchers use to search across many different data points.

23andMe’s enormous bank of human genetic data is now one of the largest in the world—and certainly one of the most valuable. Nearly 10 million people have now paid the company to sequence their DNA, and 80% have consented to have their DNA used for drug research. In 2018, 23andMe received $300 million to share its data with pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, and last year 23andMe developed and sold a drug to Spanish pharmaceutical company Almirall designed to treat inflammatory diseases such as psoriasis.”