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CariGenetics launches ancestry service

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Circle compliance officer Cyralene Benskin-Murray, left, and Carika Weldon, of CariGenetics, at the International Tech Summit 2024 (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

The head of a local genetics company is launching a new service allowing anyone in Bermuda to delve into their genetic history.

CariGenetics has been immersed in genetic studies on breast cancer for the last year.

“We are now going more to the consumer side,” Carika Weldon, of CariGenetics said.

Speaking at the 5th Annual International Tech Summit, Dr Weldon said in the coming weeks they were launching a new service similar to that offered by genealogy giants such as Ancestry.com and 23&Me.

“At the moment the big firms take your data and they give you nothing,” Dr Weldon said. “They get money from you and they get money from the people they sell your data to.”

She said these firms acted as brokers.

“You pay them to take your data and they send it and they give you nothing,” she said.

The International Tech Summit 2024 was well attended on Wednesday (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

Most of these sites will connect you with relatives who have also taken the test, tell you what part of the world your ancestors were from and give basic health data such as ‘likely to tolerate dairy’. Kits that take a sample of your saliva typically cost around $90 or more.

CariGenetics will also allow scientists to access your data if you consent to it.

“We have two foundations lined up,” she said.

The difference is they will share the profits with the person who donated the genetic material.

She called it “decentralised science”.

People who go for genetic testing with CariGenetics will be able to learn more about where their ancestors were from. They will also be able to access medical insights found in their genetic code.

“We are not yet planning to set the service up so people can find relatives in other places,” she said.

CariGenetics is still working on pricing, but the testing would probably cost from $200 to $300, depending on what the client wanted.

The testing will also include a non-fungible token to establish ownership of the biological data and protect it.

The Bermudian researcher said this made testing with CariGenetics more secure than doing so with the larger overseas ancestry companies.

She pointed out that 23&Me was hacked last September, jeopardising the genetic privacy of nearly seven million customers.

This is a new project for Dr Weldon. She has been deep in researching breast cancer in the Caribbean population for the past year.

CariGenetics aim is to unlock the Caribbean genome, but the ancestry service will be available to people of any heritage in Bermuda, and the Caribbean.

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Published May 02, 2024 at 8:15 am (Updated May 02, 2024 at 11:39 am)

CariGenetics launches ancestry service

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