Was DNA testing just a fad?
The genetic testing company 23andMe laid off 100 employees Thursday, which is about 14% of its workforce, as sales slump across the industry, CNBC reported.
The company's CEO, Anne Wojcicki, told CNBC that a downturn in the marketplace took her by surprise. She noted that privacy concerns could be one of the contributing factors for consumers. "Privacy is top of mind," she told the outlet.
Since 2006, people have turned to 23andMe for spit testing kits that reveal their genetic backgrounds and predispositions for health issues. In 2018, the number of people who reported buying DNA tests doubled thanks in part to widespread TV and internet ads, according to the MIT Technology Review.
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As consumers increasingly worry about their personal information, sales are slowing "dramatically," and 2019 had the slowest growth rate for DNA tests, MIT estimated.
Other genetics companies such as Illumina reported declining sales in 2019. The genome testing company Veritas shuttered its U.S. sales operation in December. Along with Ancestry.com and its 3 million subscribers, 23andMe is a market leader, having sold products to about 10 million people.
The genetics testing downturn comes in the wake of high-profile news about unearthed family secrets and the Golden State Killer case, which raised concerns about whether people could be convicted for crimes based on their relatives’ DNA.
Family TreeDNA caused a stir after admitting it cooperated with the FBI on crime-solving last year, and the Pentagon advised military service members against purchasing popular at-home DNA testing kits because of possible "unintended security consequences and increased risk to the joint force and mission."
Follow Dalvin Brown on Twitter: @Dalvin_Brown.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 23andMe reportedly cuts 100 jobs as consumers worry more about privacy