Me, being a DNA-test pro.Hollis JohnsonBy now, I should have a crystal-clear picture of my ancestry.
Both 23andMe and AncestryDNA have done a good job of confirming my Scandinavian origins.
So when I decided to try National Geographic’s new Geno 2.0 test, I expected my results to be roughly the same.
National Geographic’s Genographic Project has been around since 2005, making it one of the earliest genetics tests. A few months ago, it switched over to Helix’s next-generation sequencing platform for its Geno 2.0 test.
What I got in my inbox looked nothing like what I’d seen before.
The results got me thinking about the fundamental differences with AncestryDNA’s and 23andMe’s tests compared with Helix’s.
23andMe, AncestryDNA, and Geno 2.0 tests.Hollis Johnson/Business Insider
Over the last year and a half, I’ve taken two other genealogy tests: 23andMe and AncestryDNA. Both of those tests analyzed my spit using genotyping technology, while Helix uses next-generation sequencing.
We have 3 billion base pairs of DNA in our genome. That’s a lot of information to sift through. There are speedy ways to get the information that you want, such as genotyping, in which a machine looks for specific parts of DNA and pieces them together.
You can also look at only the protein-encoding parts of your genome — called the exome — which is what Helix does. The next-generation sequencing analyzes roughly 2% of those 3 billion base pairs, James Lu, Helix’s senior vice president of applied genomics, told Business Insider.
Lu said that the additional information Helix picks up could lead to new features in the future with partners like National Geographic, especially as our knowledge of the genome and exome continues to grow.
The Geno 2.0 test currently costs $149.95 and originally was $199.95. National Geographic says the money goes to nonprofit “conservation, exploration, research, and education.” For what you get — a general sense of your regional ancestry, deep ancestry (the haplogroup results), and hominin ancestry — the test doesn’t have nearly the range that other ancestry tests have.
Vilar said what distinguishes the National Geographic test from other ancestry tests is its focus on deep ancestry and the stories that migration patterns tell. There’s also a fair amount of citizen science that the test has sparked in its 12-year history, which builds on our understanding of human migration patterns.
What I am really interested in, and what I think could help justify the high price, is the access to other tests I could have now that I’m on the Helix platform. This is the first test available on the platform, but ideally, if I wanted to use another one in the future, that same information from the tube of spit I submitted to National Geographic would work — no further spit needed from me.