What is a DNA Marketplace?
DNA Marketplaces, also known as DNA App Stores, are platforms that allow you to buy services with your genetic data. You can use your data to download mobile apps and use web apps which give you additional insights into your genetic makeup. Most DNA Marketplaces offer apps they’ve developed themselves (aka house apps) and apps produced by other companies.
How do DNA Marketplaces work?
Each DNA Marketplace works slightly differently but to use any of them you’ll need digitized genetic data.
Some DNA Marketplaces sell testing kits which are sent to you in the mail. A few weeks after you’ve returned the enclosed cheek swab or saliva sample to their lab, your data will be produced and made available in your DNA Marketplace account.
Other DNA Marketplaces require you to have taken a DNA test with another company beforehand, specifically a company that produces useable genetic data (e.g. 23andMe). You’ll have to download your data from the company that produces it, before you can upload it to the DNA Marketplace you want to use.
Fortunately, once you have genetic data in your DNA Marketplace account, you’ll be able to use it again and again to access the various services you’re interested in.
What kind of genetic data is compatible?
Most DNA Marketplaces require genetic data in the form of a list of commonly tested for genetic variants that you possess (aka ‘SNPs’ or ‘Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms’). Popular DNA testing companies such as 23andMe and Ancestry.com allow you to download these lists after you’ve taken their test. The lists are usually TXT files, sometimes zipped, and are typically 15MB in size. They will contain around 700,000 genetic variants.
Some DNA testing companies analyse far fewer genetic variants and so produce genetic data that is less useful or not useful at all (e.g. data from a paternity test). Some companies won’t let you download your genetic data at all, so you should check this before buying a DNA test if the genetic data it comes with is important to you.
Some DNA testing companies produce genetic data containing an uncommonly high number of genetic variants (e.g. sequencing companies). The files produced may be in VCF format, over 500MB in size, and cover 4-10 million genetic variants! It’s worth noting that not all DNA Marketplaces can handle this much data.
In addition, some DNA Marketplaces such as Helix are only compatible with the genetic data produced by their own kit, so this is something to watch out for.
How much do the apps in DNA Marketplaces cost?
Many of the mobile and web apps you’ll find in DNA Marketplaces are free or very cheap: $0.50 to $2.00. Some cost significantly more: $10.00 to $100.00. Although price doesn’t always reflect quality, the free/cheap apps will tend to interpret just a handful of the genetic variants you possess, whereas higher priced apps (e.g. LifeNome or Toolbox Genomics) will interpret thousands using specialized algorithms.
What sort of apps can I expect to find?
Many will report on your physical or psychological traits, your health and wellness, and provide tailored advice for diet and fitness. Some will report on your ancestry and ethnic breakdown, and a handful will be purely for fun, such as apps that produce mobile wallpapers based on your DNA.
Other services offered by DNA Marketplaces
Many DNA Marketplaces will encourage you to share your genetic data with researchers conducing scientific studies. Some may offer you the chance to sell access to your genetic data for a fee. For the most part, DNA Marketplaces focus on allowing you to buy services with your data, but we advise that you check any Ts & Cs carefully when you sign up, to ensure you know who owns the data uploaded to your DNA Marketplace account, and what it’ll be used for.