What just happened? Direct-to-consumer genetic testing service provider 23andMe revealed plans this week to lay off around 100 employees, or roughly 14 percent of its workforce, due to declining sales. The majority of the layoffs will impact the company’s operations team which is responsible for overseeing growth and scaling.
Co-founder and CEO Anne Wojcicki told CNBC that she was surprised that the market was starting to turn but is willing to downsize because it is “what the market is ready for.”
Wojcicki, sister of YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, didn’t discredit the notion that privacy may be one reason why consumers are shying away from at-home DNA testing. There’s real concern that test results could end up in the wrong hands.
Worse yet, what if those “wrong hands” belong to law enforcement? Such was the case in 2018 when authorities arrested Joseph James DeAngelo on suspicion of being the Golden State Killer after getting a lead from a personal genomics website.
Even the Pentagon is now even reportedly advising military members against using consumer DNA testing kits over security concerns.
Wojcicki said that fear of another economic downturn may also be scaring some potential customers away, those that would rather save a couple hundred bucks than spend it on a testing kit. If that is indeed the case, there’s not a whole lot the company can do to combat it other than lower its prices.
23andMe isn’t the only company in the space that is experiencing a slowdown. Illumina, a firm that makes DNA sequencing machines, said last summer that the entire segment was on the decline. Another company, Veritas Genetics, shut down its US operations just ahead of the New Year.