Science Discussion: We are researchers working with some of the largest and most innovative companies using DNA to help people learn about their health, traits and ancestry. Let’s discuss how your DNA can fuel research and strategies for keeping data secure!


Hi reddit! We are scientists from Ancestry, 23andMe, and Nebula Genomics, as well as an academic scientist who works with companies like these to utilize consumer DNA for research. We are here to talk about how your DNA can be used in research settings to help scientists learn about the genetics of disease and other human traits, as well as the future of genetic data privacy.

Our discussion panel guests today are:

Nancy Cox (/u/Dr_Nancy_Cox): Hi reddit! I’m the Director of the Vanderbilt Genetics Institute at Vanderbilt University Medical Center working with large DNA databanks including patient samples obtained in medical settings (eg BioVU, UKBiobank) and personal genomics data. I recently wrote a news piece for Nature about how biobank and large scale data are poised to bring new insights into our fundamental understanding of human disease.

Nebula Genomics- Founded in 2017 by Harvard scientists including Dr. George Church, Nebula Genomics provides consumer genomic services with a focus on using cryptographic technologies to allow consumers to retain ownership of their genomic data while enabling them to securely and anonymously share that data with researchers in exchange for compensation. Consumers will know exactly who is requesting access to their data -- and for what purpose -- and can agree to or decline those requests. Purchase whole genome sequencing or sign up to be matched with researchers for free sequencing at

George Church (/u/George-Church): I’m a Professor at Harvard and MIT, and co-founder of Nebula Genomics. My lab has developed technologies for next-gen genome sequencing, gene editing (CRISPR), and DNA nanotechnology.

Kamal Obbad (/u/Kamal_Obbad): I’m a co-founder and the CEO of Nebula Genomics. I studied Neurobiology at Harvard, was formerly at Google, am a Gates-Cambridge and Y Combinator fellowship recipient, and a biotech entrepreneur.

Dennis Grishin (/u/Dennis_Grishin): I’m a co-founder and the CSO of Nebula Genomics. I was a Boehringer-Ingelheim PhD Fellow in Genetics and Genomics at Harvard University, and the recipient of the German National Academic Foundation Fellowship.

AncestryDNA is a market leader in both consumer genomics and family history, with more than 20 billion records, over 350 regions worldwide, 100 million family trees, billions of connections and the largest consumer DNA network, having DNA tested over 10 million people. Currently, Ancestry has one collaboration with a non-profit academic institution: the University of Utah (USTAR). Use of data in research collaborations is limited to participants who have explicitly opted-in to participate in scientific research, and participants can revoke their consent at any time.

Natalie Telis (/u/Natalie_Telis): I’m a statistical geneticist at Ancestry on the personalized genomics team. Before starting here, I finished my PhD at Stanford in Biomedical Informatics, studying the connection between recent human history, human evolution, and human disease. I’m an avid cyclist, coffee addict and citizen data scientist.

Jake Byrnes (/u/Jake_Byrnes): I’m the Director of Population Genomics at Ancestry and have spent the last seven years developing genomics tools to accelerate family history research and empower consumers to make meaningful personal discoveries.

23andMe, Inc. is the leading consumer genetics and research company. The 23andMe Research cohort is the largest re-contactable research database of genotypic and phenotypic information in the world; more than 80 percent of its more than 5 million customers have consented to participate in research and have contributed more than 1.5 billion phenotypic data points. By inviting customers to participate in research, 23andMe has created a new research model that accelerates genetic discovery and offers the potential to more quickly garner new insights into treatments for disease. 23andMe has collaborated with dozens of academic, industry, and non-profit groups, which has led to 119 peer-reviewed publications.

Shirley Wu (/u/23andMeShirley): I lead Health Product at 23andMe and have spent the last 9 years creating scientifically valid, user-friendly, and innovative health features to help 23andMe customers better understand and benefit from their genetic information. I hold an Sc.B. in Computational Biology from Brown University and a PhD in Biomedical Informatics from Stanford University.

Greg Sargent (/u/23andMeGreg): I work as a Data Protection Associate on the 23andMe Privacy Team to operationalize privacy and data protection commitments and manage privacy communications. Specifically, I handle U.S. and global data protection governance, training, and both internal and external communications.

Dave Hinds (/u/23andMeDavid): I lead the 23andMe statistical genetics group and work on understanding the role of genetics in disease and complex traits. I hold a PhD in Structural Biology from Stanford University.

Our guests will be answering questions as they are available throughout the day starting around noon EST.

Let’s discuss!

Additional Assets


This article and its reviews are distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and redistribution in any medium, provided that the original author and source are credited.