The market for genetic testing emerged in the early 2000s as a result of the global scientific success in mapping the human genome in the decade prior. The Human Genome Project enabled scientists to perform ever more complex and important medical research and also made it possible for biotechnology companies to develop and offer a variety of genetic tests. These tests, which were often administered through clinics, provided patients with insights about their genetic predisposition towards certain diseases. However, the past decade has witnessed tremendous growth in direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic tests, whereby consumers can purchase kits to learn more about their genetic profiles without the direct involvement of a healthcare provider as an intermediary. The applications of such products are broadly categorised as medical and non-medical tests, the latter of which are used to test for certain traits and features in individuals that are not necessarily related to disease or health, such as ancestral information.

Two of the most dominant and influential companies in the DTC genetic test market today are 23andMe and Ancestry. These were both founded in the mid-2000s and expanded their services to reach millions of users in about a decade. A plethora of genetic test manufacturers, service providers, and third-party reanalysis companies have also entered this market to meet the growing demand for consumers to better understand their genetic profiles. Two new notable players that have entered the DTC genetic test market most recently include Amorepacific, South Korea’s largest cosmetics maker, and Quest Diagnostics, a US-based diagnostic information service provider.

Companies such as these have entered this growing market while recognising that a key challenge to overcome for many of its new users relates to privacy concerns. As public scrutiny grows about the ability of companies to sell their users’ personal information to third parties, many new competitors will need to market their products and services in the most transparent way to overcome the privacy concerns of reluctant new users. Despite these privacy-related challenges, and even in the face of increased disclaimers by the companies themselves, the public view of DTC genetic testing appears to remain mostly positive, as supported by a recent article published in the European Journal of Human Genetics. This finding, combined with the growing number of companies investing in this market, strongly indicates that this market will continue to observe sizeable growth as more consumers gain interest in understanding their health and ancestral information.