Acquiring Promethease and SNPedia

The company name is River Road Bio.

It’s a Utah-based company that few genealogists will ever have heard of.

And, yesterday, at its conference in Amsterdam, MyHeritage announced it had acquired that company.1

Does The Legal Genealogist hear a collective yawn from the genealogical community?

Better not be yawning: River Road Bio is the owner of two important pieces of the DNA-and-health puzzle. One is SNPedia, an open source wiki “supporting personal genome annotation, interpretation and analysis.”2 And the other is Promethease, “a literature retrieval system that creates a personal DNA report based on your DNA data, taking into account all the scientific and medical literature cited in SNPedia.”3

And both, as of yesterday, are MyHeritage properties.

So… what does this mean? It means, first, that the literature database of SNPedia will remain open, free and subject to Creative Commons licensing — in other words, anybody including the academic and medical researchers who rely on it can continue to use it. According to the company: “MyHeritage plans to maintain SNPedia as a free resource under the same terms and will utilize this comprehensive knowledge base to enhance future versions of MyHeritage’s DNA health products.”4 MyHeritage, of course, will have exclusive rights to use the SNPedia information commercially.

Promethease is a paid service where folks who’ve DNA-tested with Ancestry or 23andMe or other testing companies can upload their raw data and receive a comprehensive report about potential health matters. I’ve written about Promethease before, starting in 20145 and most recently in 2017.6 Anyone who’s used this — for a fee ranging from $5 to the current $12 — knows the reports are fascinating and exceedingly complex.

Promethease

Reports on Promethease will be free through the end of 2019 and, MyHeritage said, will always be kept separate from MyHeritage’s own DNA health-related services and reports.

The big news about this acquisition is what MyHeritage is doing with the DNA data uploaded to Promethease. It’s going to convert the uploaded raw data into MyHeritage DNA accounts for free, and users will have access to DNA matching and ethnicity estimates.

This will be done automatically for all non-European users, while European users will have to specifically opt in to this conversion. Anybody can opt out at any time. Here’s the MyHeritage explanation:

As of November 1st, 2019, for existing non-European Promethease users only, the DNA data that is on Promethease will be copied to the MyHeritage website into new user accounts that will be created for them. Users who have uploaded DNA files to Promethease will retain ownership of their data (MyHeritage asserts no ownership rights over the DNA data), and manage it on the MyHeritage website in private accounts accessible only to them, and receive free value-add services, in addition to the accounts they will continue to maintain on Promethease.

The accounts that will be created on MyHeritage for Promethease users will enjoy the special benefit of receiving not only free DNA Matching for relatives, but also free Ethnicity Estimates. Currently, users who upload their raw DNA data to MyHeritage receive free DNA Matches, but do not get Ethnicity Estimates. This extra feature is accessible for a one-time unlock fee of $29 or by purchasing a site subscription. This benefit will be offered to Promethease users for free when their DNA is uploaded to MyHeritage, thereby saving them money and providing them with a free service that other users do not automatically receive. Some additional features will still require an unlock fee or a subscription, such as the Chromosome Browser. To learn about all of the benefits that will be available for free to Promethease users whose DNA kits will be uploaded to MyHeritage, read our DNA upload policy.

Non-European Promethease users who are not interested in having their DNA data and accounts copied to MyHeritage can log in to Promethease and delete their DNA data permanently before November 1st, 2019, and their DNA data and accounts will not be copied. Promethease users will also be able to delete their DNA data and accounts permanently from MyHeritage and Promethease at any point thereafter. MyHeritage will de-duplicate the DNA data so that DNA kits that have already been uploaded separately to MyHeritage by the same users will not be copied over to MyHeritage again. For new users who sign up to Promethease on or after November 1st, 2019 and upload DNA data, it will be copied to new accounts created for them on MyHeritage on an ongoing basis.

Promethease will send an email notification to all of its users in the coming week with details about the acquisition by MyHeritage and instructions regarding the potential data copy for non-European users, and instructions for opting in by European users. MyHeritage applies a strict privacy policy regarding DNA data, has never sold or licensed it to any third parties, and its privacy policy prohibits it from doing so without receiving explicit informed user consent. For as long as Promethease users have not granted such informed consent explicitly to MyHeritage, MyHeritage will never sell or license their DNA data to any third party.7

In short, if you’re in Europe and you want this, you have to opt in. If you’re anywhere else and don’t want it, you have to opt out.

And, for all of us, the inexorable move towards integrating health and DNA continues…


Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “MyHeritage expands DNA health holdings,” The Legal Genealogist (https://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : posted 8 Sep 2019).

SOURCES

  1. MyHeritage Acquires Promethease and SNPedia,” MyHeritage Blog, posted 7 Sep 2019 (https://blog.myheritage.com/ : accessed 8 Sep 2019).
  2. SNPedia Wiki (https://www.snpedia.com/), “About SNPedia,” rev. 8 Sep 2019.
  3. Ibid., “Promethease,” rev. 8 Sep 2019.
  4. MyHeritage Acquires Promethease and SNPedia,” MyHeritage Blog, posted 7 Sep 2019 (https://blog.myheritage.com/ : accessed 8 Sep 2019).
  5. Judy G. Russell, “A health data option,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 13 Jul 2014 (https://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : accessed 8 Sep 2019).
  6. Ibid., “Promethease promotion,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 10 Dec 2017.
  7. MyHeritage Acquires Promethease and SNPedia,” MyHeritage Blog, posted 7 Sep 2019 (https://blog.myheritage.com/ : accessed 8 Sep 2019).
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