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23andMe Is Back; But a Higher Price for Fewer Results?
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23andme_logo If you’re not sleeping under a rock, you know that today 23andMe has rolled out its plan to provide government (FDA) approved medical results. In the generality I knew this was in the offing. I asked contacts within the company, and they pretty much signaled this was imminent, though they didn’t detail the specifics. This is a big deal because for a lot of people the medical results are big reason you’d get the service. Certainly I have friends who have been waiting for years, who kept asking when this would happen, as then they could the pitch to family to get typed.

But there’s a minor hitch: you’ll be charged more for fewer results. They’re going to be jacking up the price to $199 from $99. Arguably the results they’ll be giving you are more robust than the older full suite, but basically 23andMe is increasing prices, while giving customers a leaner deal than many of us were used to before the FDA clampdown (also, carrier testing is provided pretty much free for many people with insurance if you are going to have a child).

The question then emerges for the rationale behind this price increase. After all, in the tech sector it’s not the norm to charge more for less after users have become used to a particular price point. My own hunch is this: with well over 1 million customers they’re going to aim to squeeze more information out of their current user base than gain more customers. From what I had heard, 23andMe was basically losing on customers in the initial years to grow their data set. But recently SNP array have become cheap enough that on paper they’d actually be making a profit by pushing their product for $199 if you just took the array price into account.

I’m a little disappointed in the particular turn of events, though overall I stand by my assertion from two years back that these bumps in the road will be little in the long run. The future is coming at us, at varying rates of increase or decrease, but always with a positive velocity.

• Category: Science • Tags: Genomics, Personal Genomics 
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  1. Given that the future is “coming at us,” is there any reason to jump in and have a test done by 23andme (or another company) at this point? So long as you plan on being alive in 5 years, why not wait? Won’t tests be cheaper, more complete, and more accurate…results more informative and user friendly? Adopters in the ascent phase of a technology life cycle tend to pay more and receive less, like my dad who bought a CD player for $700 in the mid 80s that was quickly outclassed.

  2. 23andMe don’t seem to justify the price by just adding carrier status, they also cite website improvements and adding back information on non-medical traits (earwax type etc.). The fact that it was a huge uphill battle for them to carve out a niche for the carrier status in the FDA regulation – and they only succeeded by arguing that carrier status is not the kind of clinical info subject to the FDA regulation since it doesn’t predict or diagnose any customer’s disease – suggests that the FDA control over predictive and diagnostic genetic testing remains absolute. To pretend that the glass is kind of half-full now is simply misleading.

  3. I don’t blame 23andMe for raising prices considering that they’re now competing with the likes of , which is leeching off of the genotyping being paid for by 23andMe and others.

  4. Well, looks like I missed my shot. And here I thought it would get cheaper.

    Oh well, my DNA isn’t going anywhere. One day…

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