What we were all afraid of finally happened. 23andMe admitted that it swapped some samples in the lab. Even if these things happen in labs, it should really not happen in such a sensitive area. We, bloggers and geneticians, have been writing about how hard it is for patients to analyze and interprete their direct-to-consumer genetic results properly and how hard it is for this market to remain attractive despite all the criticisms. And now they swap samples. Daniel MacArthur at Genetic Future has a nice review about all the related articles and news.
For example, a mother posted her recent story on the 23andMe community:
Still upset I checked family inheritance and noticed my daughter shared with me, and then I checked my son’s. He was not a match for any of us. I checked his haplogroup’s and they were different from ours. I started screaming. A month before my son was born two local hospitals had baby switches. I panicked and I checked over and over. My kid’s were sitting at the computer because we all wanted to see the results. My son laughed but he looked upset. I called my sister in tears.
Here is the full 23andMe announcement:
We recently determined that a number of new 23andMe customer samples were incorrectly processed by our contracted lab. We want to clarify what happened with the sample errors, how it happened and what we’re doing to prevent it from happening again. Providing each and every one of our customers with accurate data is 23andMe’s number one priority, and we fully realize the gravity of this incident.
Up to 96 customers may have received and viewed data that was not their own. Upon learning of the mix-ups, we immediately identified all customers potentially affected, notified them of the problem and removed the data from their accounts. The lab is now concurrently conducting an investigation and re-processing the samples of the affected customers and their accurate results will be posted early next week. We expect the investigation will be complete over the next several days and we will provide further details when we have them.
We are currently putting additional procedures in place that will add an extra layer of safeguards to help assure that similar incidents do not occur in the future. We are deliberating on a process that would include removing manual steps at the lab, completely automating the sample analyses, and implementing further checks of the data before it gets loaded into customer accounts. Please be assured that our testing laboratory’s processes comply with strict professional, regulatory, and corporate quality assurance standards for ensuring that all laboratory test results are accurate. The laboratory will adopt corrective action as warranted based on the findings of the investigation.
The science behind 23andMe’s personal genetics service remains proven and sound. We recognize that this is a very serious issue and your trust is of the utmost importance. We hope that this helps clarify what has happened and what we are doing to prevent these problems in the future. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any further questions. We appreciate your comments and feedback.
I cannot wait to hear what you have to say, Steve!