A start-up genetic screening company, 23andMe , has slashed the price of its personalized DNA test that it says can provide customers with some idea of their personal disease risks from $999 to $399.
The company said the price cut was possible “thanks to technological advancements” made by San Diego-based Illumina Inc., from which the company 23andMe buys its DNA scanning technology. Competitors sell similar tests for $1,000 to $2,500.
Customers can send 23andMe — named for the 23 pairs of chromosomes that make up an individual’s genome — a swab of saliva that the company analyzes for inherited traits that could predispose someone to certain diseases.
Financial backers of the Mountain View, Calif.-based company, including Google and Genentech, are betting that the test will quickly become widespread, but many public health officials have said that research into the connections between genes and diseases is too new to be used for making serious medical decisions.
In California, regulators recently cracked down on gene-scanning companies, including 23andMe, saying companies must show they are complying with state regulations on medical testing. While the companies have argued they are providing information — not medical services — 23andMe has adjusted its practices to get cleared to continue selling the tests in the state.