Made up of computational biologists, statistical geneticists, and bioinformaticians, this group is responsible for maintaining and improving our core methods for making genetic discoveries. These methods are the basis for all scientific efforts across the company, from supporting new features in our product to identifying drug target candidates for our Therapeutics division. Our statistical expertise, combined with what is one of the largest genomic datasets in the world, has made 23andMe a leader in studying human traits and diseases.
Our Ancestry R&D Team develops algorithms and reference datasets that support all aspects of our Ancestry Service, including our Ancestry Composition and DNA Relatives features. Our population geneticists developed a pioneering local ancestry inference algorithm known as Ancestry Painting, and a decade later, more recent versions of this algorithm continue to distinguish our Ancestry Service from those of our competitors. We also created DNA Relatives (formerly known as Relative Finder), the first algorithm for identifying relatives within a large genetic database.
How can we leverage our unique dataset to revolutionize health and wellness? Our Health R&D Team is always on the lookout for new ways to develop data-driven health products that improve the wellbeing of our customers. Our Genetic Weight report, launched in 2017, was the first Wellness report based on data from 23andMe research participants rather than published literature. Since then we have continued to utilize the latest machine learning algorithms to produce robust risk prediction models, that combine genetics with lifestyle and environment to predict important health outcomes. We work closely with our Product Science team to figure out how to implement these algorithms in our product.
Genetic discoveries are not possible without phenotypic data. Our one billion data points, gathered through self-report surveys, cover a wide range of topics, from wellness and behavior, to diseases or chronic conditions. The topics of these questionnaires cover conditions that are both serious, such as cancer, and not so serious, like acne. We also ask about common conditions like heart disease, as well as rare ones like ALS. Our Data Collection Team utilizes a breadth of essential expertise — including public health, epidemiology, biostatistics, social sciences, and psychology — to ensure the quality of our phenotypic data and to support scientific endeavors across the Research Team.
Respecting our research participants is our highest priority. Our Research Ethics and Policy Team addresses a range of issues connected to our ground-breaking research program, including informed consent, recruitment, privacy, and data sharing and management. Over 80% of our customers provide consent to participate in research, and we evaluate new forms of research recruitment based on genetic and phenotype data, focusing on proper handling of potentially sensitive data and ensuring that research participation minimizes harm and maximizes potential benefits. We also enact policies around data handling and sharing that are designed to maximize the impact of our massive research database while ensuring the privacy of our research participants.
At 23andMe, we are redefining the field of human genetics by conducting research studies at an unprecedented scale and level of complexity. We are always dreaming up new ways to innovate, such as enabling people to participate in studies from the convenience of their phones, asking research participants to self-administer a well-established pain endurance test, and recruiting tens of thousands of research participants at breakneck speeds. These projects involve teams from across 23andMe and sometimes involve academic collaborators, industry partners, and non-profit and government funding agencies.