Do you want to know where you come from and who your ancestors are? That is what companies like 23andMe promise with their DNA tests and then, yes, traffic with that personal data and sell them to the pharmaceutical industry.
Perhaps that discovery caused some problems at 23andMe. Company CEO Anne Wokcicki announced that the company will lay off about 100 people, 14% of its workforce. He did not give clear reasons for the move, but the latest reports suggest that the DNA testing market is falling sharply.
The controversy with privacy as a potential root of layoffs
Wojcicki was not clear about the reasons for the change in a market that until recently was growing significantly. These DNA tests allow us to know, for example, if the user does not have ancestry from a certain country, if they are prone to a certain flavor of ice cream or even if their genetics make there may be some risk of contracting diseases such as cancer.
Still, he admits, the layoffs are being applied because “it is what the market is prepared for.” 23andMe CEO Admits Privacy Could Be One Reason, especially after cases such as the case of the “Golden State murderer” who was found decades after his crimes thanks to a DNA test.
Wojcicki’s speech on the matter is clear: “privacy comes first” for 23andMe. The evolution of this company has been erratic. After managing to raise 786 million in investment rounds, its managers promoted both the acquisition of clients and agreements with pharmaceutical companies such as the Spanish Almirall.
After some problems with the FDA in the United States that they managed to solve, 23andMe began to grow exceptionally: the sales of DNA tests became almost a viral gift, but sometime in 2019 everything changed. Companies like Illumina, maker of DNA sequencing machines, already warned in the summer: the market was falling.
Companies like Veritas Genetics have suffered this turn of the tables: those responsible they closed the doors of the business late last year. Others like Color Genomics managed to raise money through an investment round after focusing on the business market and reaching agreements with Apple.