Business News

Layoffs at Genetic Testing Companies Reflect the Changing Market

This is a follow-up to articles I published recently: the layoff at 23andMe announced at http://bit.ly/2vhC1FH and the layoff at Ancestry announced at http://bit.ly/2SsW0t5.

An article by Nicole Wetsman in The Verge web site adds more information in a review of today’s DNA testing business and suggestions as to the underlying causes of these business setbacks. You can find Nicole Wetsman’s article in The Verge at http://bit.ly/2H2ZJYW.

Ancestry Announces Lay-Offs and a Change in Corporate Focus on the Family History Business

Ancestry’s president & chief executive officer, Margo Georgiadis, today announced a reduction in the company’s workforce. Blaming a slowdown in the company’s DNA service, she writes, “Future growth will require a continued focus on building consumer trust and innovative new offerings that deliver even greater value to people. Ancestry is well positioned to lead that innovation to inspire additional discoveries in both Family History and Health.”

You can read the full announcement in the Ancestry Blog at https://blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry/2020/02/05/our-path-forward/.

23andMe Lays Off 100 Employees

According to an article by Christina Farr in the CNBC news web site at https://cnb.cx/30Piet9:

23andMe is laying off 100 people, or 14% of its staff, mostly from its operations team, as consumer DNA tests are down.

CEO Anne Wojcicki didn’t have a clear explanation for that, but cited a variety of factors, including both recession fears and privacy concerns.

Wojcicki said she anticipated that DNA testing would explode when she co-founded the business in 2007, but is now looking ahead to a retracting market.

RootsWeb Mailing Lists to be Discontinued

The following is from an email message sent to many RootsWeb users from the RootsWeb administrators:

Beginning March 2nd, 2020 the Mailing Lists functionality on RootsWeb will be discontinued. Users will no longer be able to send outgoing emails or accept incoming emails. Additionally, administration tools will no longer be available to list administrators and mailing lists will be put into an archival state.

Administrators may save the emails in their list prior to March 2nd. After that, mailing list archives will remain available and searchable on RootsWeb.

American Ancestors Offers New Employee Benefit Program to Corporations

The following announcement was written by American Ancestors (also known as the New England Historic Genealogical Society):

December 10, 2019—Boston, Massachusetts—In a crowded field of employee benefit options available to companies in Boston, a new program offered by American Ancestors stands apart. The growing interest in genealogy, family history, and DNA testing has inspired American Ancestors to offer companies something unique in the category.

American Ancestors, also known as New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS), has announced a new Corporate Membership Program designed for Boston-area companies that want to offer a genealogical research experience with its many celebrated benefits to company personnel. Researching and studying genealogy and family history has experienced a surge in interest and participation in recent years and NEHGS, creators of the respected American Ancestors brand in genealogy with many popular products and services, is among the leaders in the industry.

GEDmatch, the Controversial Genealogy Website that Helped Crack the Golden State Killer Case, has been Bought by a Forensic Genetics Firm

Late breaking news: Crime scene DNA sequencing company Verogen has just acquired GEDmatch, a genealogy database credited with helping to solve some 70 rapes and murders.

Verogen, a San Diego-based company that provides equipment for high-tech sequencing of crime-scene DNA, has announced that it has acquired GEDmatch, a website that rose to fame after it led cops to the alleged Golden State Killer.

(You can read about GEDmatch’s genealogy DNA matching web site in previous articles in this newsletter by starting at: https://duckduckgo.com/?q=site%3Aeogn.com+gedmatch&t=brave&ia=web.)

GEDmatch has been caught in the crossfire of a bitter argument between genealogists who believe the site has compromised its users’ privacy and those who want to work with law enforcement to help solve violent crimes.

Laboratory for Advanced Medicine Inc. has Hired a new Chief Executive Officer: Kenneth Chahine, a former Ancestry.com Executive

Friends and former co-workers might be interested to know that Kenneth Chahine, Ph.D., J.D., has moved to Laboratory for Advanced Medicine Inc. He is the new CEO and is competing with several venture-backed startups in a new market for blood tests that detect cancer in its early stages.

Laboratory for Advanced Medicine is an AI-driven healthcare company focused on commercializing early cancer detection tests from a simple blood draw.

You can read the announcement at: https://tinyurl.com/eogn191105.

Ancestry Makes $1 Million Educational Grant to UpToDate to Develop Genetic Testing Information for Medical Providers

The following announcement was written by Ancestry®:

LEHI, Utah & LAS VEGAS–Grant Reflects Ancestry’s Focus on Working with Providers, Consumers Toward Improved Health Outcomes

Ancestry®, the global leader in family history and consumer genomics, announced it has made a $1 million educational grant to UpToDate®, a leading evidence-based clinical resource, to independently develop information for healthcare providers to help them interpret and act on the results of genetic testing. Announced during a mainstage discussion at the 2019 HLTH innovation conference by Margo Georgiadis, chief executive officer of Ancestry, the grant is part of Ancestry’s long-term commitment to partnering with healthcare stakeholders to improve preventive health.

As millions of consumers choose to take DNA tests to gain greater insight into their health and wellness, healthcare providers must be prepared to have informed and meaningful conversations with their patients, helping them understand how their genes influence their health to enable them to take actionable next steps.

Filae.com launches English language site and facilitates access to 1.5 billion names from French Records

The following announcement was written by Filae:

Filae’s French collection opens the door for non-French-speaking people to discover their family stories online; 40 million people in the world (excluding France) claim French descent.

Paris, France – September, 18, 2019 – Filae.com, the world’s largest online resource for accessing French official records, today announced the launch of its first foreign language international sister-site: https://en.filae.com.

With more than 40 million people in the world claiming French heritage, the launch of an English language version of Filae.com gives all of them an unprecedented and exclusive access to more than 150 million images of French Census and Vital records (birth, marriage, death) which have been indexed by Filae.com. As Elvis Presley, Alec Baldwin, Angelina Jolie, Jessica Alba, Kurt Cobain, Warren Buffett, Hillary Clinton and many other celebrities, 4% of the US population, 17% of Argentinians and 14% of Canadians have French roots!

AncestryHealth Announces Genotype and Next Generation Genetic Sequencing Services

The following announcement was written by Ancestry:

LEHI, Utah & SAN FRANCISCO – (Oct. 15, 2019) – For more than 30 years, Ancestry®, the global leader in family history and consumer genomics, has built innovative services that empower millions of people to make more meaningful discoveries about themselves and their families. First with family history, then through DNA and today, with the introduction of AncestryHealth®. AncestryHealth is a long-term commitment to making a difference in preventive health through personalized and actionable insights.

Through a highly supportive and guided experience, AncestryHealth services deliver actionable insights that can empower people to take proactive steps — in collaboration with their healthcare provider — to address potential health risks identified in their genes and family health history. In a recent AncestryDNA® customer survey, 83 percent of respondents said they are looking for new ways to improve their health and 89 percent said it is critical for their children to learn about improving their health.

23andMe’s New VIP Service Includes a One-On-One Chat to Explain your DNA

23andMe just added a third purchasing option for those who want a little bit more.

The new VIP Health + Ancestry Service delivers more options for customers, including concierge-like services. The VIP service bundles together one 23andMe Health + Ancestry Service kit, with a companion kit, overnight shipping, and priority lab processing.

Dr. Barbara Rae-Venter and Gene By Gene Join Forces to Shape the Future of Investigative Genetic Genealogy

The following announcement was written by Gene By Gene, the parent company of FamilyTreeDNA:

Barbara Rae-Venter, PhD

HOUSTON, Sept. 27, 2019 — Genetic genealogist Dr. Barbara Rae-Venter, recognized for her groundbreaking work in the Golden State Killer case, named one of Time’s 100 most influential people of 2019, and Nature’s 10 people who mattered in science in 2018, has been named Director of Gene By Gene’s newly formed Investigative Genetic Genealogy Unit.

Gene By Gene, known in the direct-to-consumer business as FamilyTreeDNA, was the first company to market direct-to-consumer DNA testing, and first to provide familial matching through a person’s DNA signature. “Dr. Barbara Rae-Venter pioneered law enforcement’s most revolutionary crime-solving tool since the fingerprint,” says president and founder, Bennett Greenspan. “We are excited to have a genealogist of Dr. Rae-Venter’s caliber working with us to set industry-leading standards for investigative genetic genealogy.”

Mike Linton Joins Ancestry.com as its Chief Revenue Officer

Mike Linton, new CRO at Ancestry.com – PHOTO COURTESY OF ANCESTRY.COM

Ancestry.com as its chief revenue officer. In the announcement, Linton’s mandate is described as “… to grow the company and he will be responsible for marketing and product.”

The announcement also gives a clue to Ancestry.com’s business plans: “…as the company expands from its genealogy roots into its genetic DNA offerings.”

You can read the full announcement at: https://tinyurl.com/eogn190926.

Genealogist-on-Demand: Virtual Consultation Service announced by Legacy Tree Genealogists

Legacy Tree Genealogists is a well known and highly respected genealogy research company. Now the company has announced expansion into a slightly different service for genealogists. The following announcement was written by Legacy Tree Genealogists:

[SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH, September 19, 2019] – Legacy Tree Genealogists, the world’s leading genealogy research firm, announced today the launch of a new service—45-minute, virtual one-on-one consultations with a professional genealogist. At only 100 USD, these consultations provide users with a cost-effective resource to have their research questions answered in real-time by a professional genealogist, from the comfort of their own home.

Users have the option to schedule either a DNA Consultation with a genetic genealogist who can explain their DNA test results, or a Genealogy Consultation with access to one of their worldwide researchers with expertise in regions around the globe, including England, Ireland, Scotland, and Australia.

New MyHeritage Education Center Announced in MyHeritage LIVE 2019

The following announced was written by MyHeritage:

We have great news! During MyHeritage LIVE, our annual MyHeritage user conference, we just announced MyHeritage Education: a new online resource center for enhancing your understanding of the MyHeritage platform and to help you make the most of your family history research.

Available in English, German, Dutch, French, Swedish, and Norwegian, the new Education Center includes loads of learning materials that will help you learn about every facet of MyHeritage. Articles, how-to videos, and webinars cover a wide variety of topics, including plenty of tips for everyone from beginner family history enthusiasts to seasoned genealogists.

We will be adding new languages in the future, and we will be constantly be adding new content in each language.

MyHeritage Acquires Promethease and SNPedia

The following press release was issued by MyHeritage today at the MyHeritage LIVE 2019 event in Amsterdam, the Netherlands:

TEL AVIV, Israel & LEHI, Utah –Sep 7, 2019–

MyHeritage, the leading global discovery platform for exploring family history, uncovering ethnic origins, finding new relatives, and gaining health insights, announced today the acquisition of SNPedia and Promethease, through acquiring the company that owned and operated them, River Road Bio. This marks the 10th acquisition by MyHeritage and reinforces the company’s position as a global leader in consumer genomics.

SNPedia.com was launched in 2006 and is a wiki that contains a broad, community-curated knowledge base linking between genetic variants and medical conditions, as well as traits, citing over 30,000 peer-reviewed scientific publications. SNPedia is the primary encyclopedia and de facto go-to resource for information about genetic markers, and has evolved to cover 110,413 genetic variants. SNPedia operates under a Creative Commons license, wherein it is a free resource for academic and non-commercial use, with only MyHeritage having the right to utilize it commercially. MyHeritage plans to maintain SNPedia as a free resource under the same terms, and will utilize this comprehensive knowledge base to enhance future versions of MyHeritage’s DNA health products.

Ancestry CEO Margo Georgiadis Reveals the Company’s Health Ambitions

According to an article by Zachary Hendrickson in the BusinessInsider web site:

“Genetic testing magnate Ancestry CEO Margo Georgiadis said that the startup plans to branch out from genealogy testing and expand into individualized medicine, Business Insider Prime reports.

Margo Georgiadis

Ancestry.com Owners Aim to Extract $900 Million Payout With Loan

From an article by Davide Scigliuzzo in the Bloomberg.com web site

“The owners of Ancestry.com Inc., the DNA analysis and family tree company, are turning to a well-tested private equity play for taking cash out of a company: topping up on debt.

“An investor group led by Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC and private equity firm Silver Lake Management LLC is looking to pull out more than $900 million from the company through a special dividend mostly funded by new borrowings. They are also seeking approval for another one-time distribution before year-end.”

The same article also states:

Yankee Publishing Acquires Family Tree Magazine

Great news! A major genealogy magazine was on the verge of folding. (See my earlier article at http://bit.ly/2Z6yoN8 for the details.) However, the US Family Tree Magazine has now been purchased by a major magazine publisher with a long history of publishing. Family Tree magazine now seems to have a bright future. Here is the announcement:

Dublin, NH (July 19, 2019) — Yankee Publishing Inc. (YPI), publisher of Yankee, The Old Farmer’s Almanac, and New Hampshire magazine, announced its acquisition of Family Tree magazine from F+W Media.

“We’re pleased to welcome Family Tree to YPI’s family of products,” said President and CEO Jamie Trowbridge. “Family Tree fits well with our suite of brands, both in terms of content and business strategy. We’re excited to take this step to continue YPI’s growth as an independent media company.”

Family Tree – with its print magazine, website, online classes and conferences, and web store – serves a passionate audience of genealogy enthusiasts. Interest in genealogy is surging in America, with over 20 million Americans having had their DNA tested by the four leading commercial ancestry and health databases, according to industry estimates.

The In-Depth Genealogist is Going Out of Business

The following is a message I received from Jennifer Alford, publisher of The In-Depth Genealogist:

It is with a heavy heart that we write to let you know that The In-Depth Genealogist will be closing our “doors”. This issue of the magazine is the last. 6.5 years ago we never thought that IDG and Going In-Depth would grow beyond our band of genealogy friends that wanted to start something grand. Yes, we started small and continued to dream big. Probably too big for what we were able to accomplish. These years have brought us so many good times. We enjoyed getting out to the conferences and meeting all of our readers. We loved having the fan base that we did. We appreciated each of you that stopped and talked to us to let us know you enjoyed our publications and that you continued to learn from each one.