Last week Ancestry.com publicly released its AncestryHealth website, https://health.ancestry.com. According to Ancestry, “AncestryHealth’s first offering is a free service, currently in beta, that gives consumers the ability to compile their family health history information with the help of their Ancestry family tree.” Since many health issues run in families, tracing health conditions can help individuals and health care workers take steps to minimize risks. Saving health information in a tree records the information for sharing with health care workers and future generations.
With the launch of AncestryHealth, Ancestry has also added a chief health officer to its executive team. Cathy A. Petti, MD, will be the first person to occupy that position.
“This new service leverages expert research and delivers customized information to consumers about the risks and prevention measures to help empower them to make healthy lifestyle choices,” said Tim Sullivan, Ancestry CEO. “Combined with the breadth and scale of Ancestry data, we expect AncestryHealth to be a key piece of the puzzle as we look to understand how health is passed down through generations, and we are excited to have Dr. Petti lead this effort."
It looks like Petti will report to Dr. Ken Chahine, executive vice president and general manager of AncestryDNA and AncestryHealth. This could signal a move by Ancestry into health-oriented DNA testing.
“We set out to create health offerings for our community that integrate with, and leverage the successes of Ancestry and AncestryDNA,” said Chahine. In the AncestryHealth press release, Ancestry positioned itself as both “the leader in family history and consumer genetics.” (Italics added.) According to Ancestry, Petti will work alongside genomic teams and will lead regulatory affairs.
Regulations have stymied the health-related DNA offerings of competitor, 23andMe. Back in November 2013 the FDA informed 23andMe that they hadn’t complied with all the regulations necessary to market their DNA for providing health reports on genetic diseases, conditions, and predispositions. 23andMe subsequently ceased providing health-related DNA reports. 23andMe’s Anne Wojcicki explained that “this is new territory for both 23andMe and the FDA. This makes the regulatory process with the FDA important because the work we are doing with the agency will help lay the groundwork for what other companies in this new industry do in the future.”
In February of this year the FDA granted 23andMe authorization to market its test for Bloom Syndrome carrier status. (See the 23andMe press release.) Perhaps Ancestry has decided, as Wojcicki predicted, to follow the course charted and begin their own efforts to satisfy government regulations so that it can offer health-oriented DNA tests.