12 Jul, 2019

Sano Genetics Scientific Review Methodology

We are excited to partner with DNAtestingchoice (the leading website for personal genetic test reviews) to offer scientific reviews on the rapidly increasing number of personal genetic tests.

Interest in these tests has boomed in the last decade, and there are now more than 300 providers offering more than 3,000 tests.

To help potential customers separate fact from fiction, we are writing scientific reviews on these tests, starting the health, dieting, and fitness space.

Our approach is based on three pillars, which are explained in more detail below: accuracy of claims, the communication of results, and the disclosure of methodology.

Our review process

Our first reviews have been written by Dr. Patrick Short, co-founder and CEO of Sano Genetics, who has a PhD in Mathematical Genomics and Medicine from the University of Cambridge, completing his research at the Wellcome Sanger Institute. We would welcome reviews from other scientists with a background in genomics, microbiome, epigenetics, nutrigenomics, etc. - please get in touch here if you would like to contribute a review. This blog post goes into more detail around what we are basing the scores off of in each of the categories, with a few examples.

Accuracy of claims

We want to be sure that what is promised to consumers on the website or in marketing materials stands up to scientific scrutiny.

For example, if a website claims that it can fine-tune your diet to help you live a longer life, then this should be backed up by multiple independent research studies. If the marketing claims are not clearly supported, then the test will get a lower score in this category.

In contrast, if the website makes it clear, for example, that genetics is only part of the story, (which is the case for basically every trait and condition), then we would score this higher.

Communication of results

Communicating differences in complex human traits, ancestry composition, or disease risk due to genetics is not straightforward. The best scoring companies will accurately communicate numbers that give you an idea of not just the direction of effect but also the magnitude of the effect

For tests that return some potentially medically relevant information (e.g. ApoE4 status that correlates with Alzheimer’s disease, or BRCA status that correlates with breast cancer), the best tests on the market will communicate not just your increased or decreased risk, but the total risk of developing the condition. Furthermore, information about what you can do with this information, including access to genetic counselling, is also important.

Tests that use simple categories such as high, medium, and low risk, are usually not accurately communicating the science.

Disclosure of methodology

The best genetic testing companies spend time carefully gathering evidence for every genetic variant they interpret. This information does not necessarily have to be front and centre on the website, but it should be easy for a potential customer to find, so they can read and understand more how compelling (or not compelling) the science backing these tests is.

The main factors influencing this score are: Availability of gene and variant lists on the website Availability of references/citations for the genes/variants interpreted Descriptions of the genetic testing methods used, with information about lab certifications (e.g. CLIA)

We are excited to start this partnership with DNAtestingchoice, and by using these clear factors to review we will help potential customers navigate the rapidly changing landscape of direct-to-consumer genetic testing.

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