23andMe Step 2: Spitting In A Tube

Last week I was able to take the second step towards understanding my genetic trivia – the $1,000 23andMe kit I ordered on December 6 arrived.

I spent a few minutes reading the directions and then did as I was told – I spent 5 minutes or so spitting into the provided tube, mixing in a chemical that comes with the kit, and sealing it up for shipment. In 4-6 weeks, they say, I’ll get the results back and will know a little more about my essential me-ness.

It’s clear that the concerns I brought up in the last post about taking a sample from someone without their knowledge won’t work that well with 23andMe. The volume of spit required to complete the test is just too much not to raise someone’s suspicions.

And as luck would have it, I ran into co-founder Anne Wojcicki at a holiday party just a couple of hours after the spitting session. She said the 4-6 week window was the longest it would take to get back results, and that some people get them back in just a week or two. I asked her if she could do me a favor and make sure mine got done quickly. She politely declined, saying something about how their privacy protections make it impossible for her to single my sample out.

I also asked Anne how many kits have been purchased. I ran the question by her perfectly – I asked a string of easy questions that she answered quickly and then I snuck that one in (this almost always works when trying to get sensitive information out of entrepreneurs), but she was on the ball and her media training clicked in. No answer.

23andMe is also a very expensive social network. Account holders can share their genetic information with friends (or anyone really) and compare that information with respect to inherited traits, ancestry and global similarity.

I’ll post again when the test results come in. More photos from the test are here.

Side note: I also ran into photographer Lane Hartwell at the party last night. Boy was that an uncomfortable conversation.