New 'Coronavirus DNA Health Report' Purports to Evaluate Severity, Risk

Tami Abdollah

Tami Abdollah was dot.LA's senior technology reporter. She was previously a national security and cybersecurity reporter for The Associated Press in Washington, D.C. She's been a reporter for the AP in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Times and for L.A.'s NPR affiliate KPCC. Abdollah spent nearly a year in Iraq as a U.S. government contractor. A native Angeleno, she's traveled the world on $5 a day, taught trad climbing safety classes and is an avid mountaineer. Follow her on Twitter.

New 'Coronavirus DNA Health Report' Purports to Evaluate Severity, Risk

The world's largest online marketplace for DNA services is providing a new "Coronavirus DNA Health Report" that promises to assess a user's individual risk of coronavirus infection and the likely severity of reaction from the virus, including the risk of serious illness or death, based on a free analysis of their DNA.


Los Angeles-based Sequencing.com, founded by Dr. Brandon Colby in 2014, said in a phone call with dot.LA Wednesday that the platform started allowing people to begin getting the newest report for free early this morning and within a few hours thousands had already done so and it quickly became the No. 1 report on their site.

"We really have been working day and night going through the literature, identifying what studies are valid to use, creating algorithms for that, automating algorithms, and creating a report that's very straight forward and very accessible to the layperson, so that everyone can be empowered by that," Colby said.

"We specialize in this, working nonstop, and are not sure if that capabilities exists with other companies, so we see that as a competitive advantage."

The new report is based on 18 scientific studies, with the company's team adopting research from the SARS outbreak in 2003 because at a molecular level COVID-19 is caused by a strain that appears to be similar.

"Sounds like bullshit to me," said Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, a University of California, Los Angeles epidemiologist who is also a Professor of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases and the Program in Global Health. "If you can put in someone's age, that's probably the strongest predictor of the likely severity" of the disease for them.

Klauser added: "They can say whatever they want. It's of high concern to an infectious disease epidemiologist and clinical specialist like myself."

Health specialists have also noted that the existence of other chronic diseases like lung or heart disease can also be the strongest predictor of clinical outcomes.

"There are certain human gene alterations that can put people at risk for lung disease or heart disease, but that hasn't been adequately studied, gone through a peer review process, tested and epidemiological studies (conducted) to verify so it's not something I'd recommend or encourage people to waste their money on," Klausner said.

The company, which was backed by Mucker Capital a little over a year ago, moved into doing its own genomic sequencing 2-3 months ago, too, providing a DNA sequencing that's roughly similar to what the other major companies offer for $69 or a full sequencing of the human genome for $399.

Colby said that anyone who has done DNA sequencing, whether with them, or others like 23andMe or Ancestry.com, could upload their data on the site for the newest coronavirus report, which is ready in about 10 minutes.

"The more this pandemic evolves, the more it becomes clear that younger people – even if asymptomatic – should also be concerned about knowing their risk factors," said Colby in a statement responding to Klausner's comments. "Knowledge is power, and if getting their Coronavirus DNA Health Report from Sequencing.com provides further confirmation that they should not be going out in public for their own safety and to eliminate the potential spread of the virus to others, then all the better."

The website is HIPAA, GDPR and CCPA compliant, Colby said, and has adopted practices to ensure user privacy, ownership and control of data.

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Do you have a story that needs to be told? My DMs are open on Twitter @latams. You can also email me at tami(at)dot.la, or ask for my Signal.

tami@dot.la

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March Capital Raises $650 Million Fund to Invest in AI Startups

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College and previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Send tips or pitches to samsonamore@dot.la and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

March Capital Raises $650 Million Fund to Invest in AI Startups
March Capital founder Jamie Montgomery. Illustration by Dilara Mundy.

Santa Monica-based venture outfit March Capital announced Feb. 3 that it raised its largest fund to date, a $650 million investment vehicle that will be used to back up to 15 startups focused on delivering new uses of artificial intelligence.

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The Three Best Ways to Work With Your Startup Board

Spencer Rascoff

Spencer Rascoff serves as executive chairman of dot.LA. He is an entrepreneur and company leader who co-founded Zillow, Hotwire, dot.LA, Pacaso and Supernova, and who served as Zillow's CEO for a decade. During Spencer's time as CEO, Zillow won dozens of "best places to work" awards as it grew to over 4,500 employees, $3 billion in revenue, and $10 billion in market capitalization. Prior to Zillow, Spencer co-founded and was VP Corporate Development of Hotwire, which was sold to Expedia for $685 million in 2003. Through his startup studio and venture capital firm, 75 & Sunny, Spencer is an active angel investor in over 100 companies and is incubating several more.

The Three Best Ways to Work With Your Startup Board

When launching and running a startup, your board of directors is one of your most valuable assets. If you already understand why you need a board and how to structure your board, it may be tempting to think you can cross that item off the list. But building a board is just the beginning. Now you’ve got to get down to business—together.

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This Week in ‘Raises’: Saviynt Lands $205M, Pagos Secures $34M

Decerry Donato

Decerry Donato is a reporter at dot.LA. Prior to that, she was an editorial fellow at the company. Decerry received her bachelor's degree in literary journalism from the University of California, Irvine. She continues to write stories to inform the community about issues or events that take place in the L.A. area. On the weekends, she can be found hiking in the Angeles National forest or sifting through racks at your local thrift store.

This Week in ‘Raises’: Saviynt Lands $205M, Pagos Secures $34M
This Week in ‘Raises’:

While it was a slow week of funding in Los Angeles, security vendor Saviynt managed to score $205 million that will be used to meet the company’s growing demand for its converged identity platform and accelerate innovation.

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