Sano Genetics review – Can it help you join a research study?

Rating based on our Sano Genetics review

7 facts from our Sano Genetics review

  1. Sano Genetics location: United Kingdom
  2. Products: genetic testing (genotyping, whole exome sequencing, whole genome sequencing); DNA data upload, data sharing with researchers
  3. Reports: a limited number of reports based on research studies that Sano Genetics has conducted
  4. Data access: yes
  5. Privacy: data sharing requires explicit consent
  6. Cost: DNA data upload is free; genetic tests cost $150 – $1200
  7. Alternatives: Nebula Genomics (free DNA upload; whole genome sequencing for $299), Veritas Genetics (whole genome sequencing for $599 – $3599)

Introduction

This is a review of Sano Genetics, a Cambridge-based startup that is building a data-sharing platform to connect patients and consumers with cutting edge research projects. Thus, unlike most DNA sites, the company focuses on data sharing, rather than selling DNA testing kits.

Participants can upload their DNA data and contribute to different research studies, including research on rare diseases. In return, the participants receive access to personalized reports based on research studies. In some cases, study participants can also be paid. 

Sano Genetics was cofounded in 2017 by Patrick Short, CEO, Charlotte Guzzo, COO, and William Jones, CTO. It began as a small project while the three co-founders were Ph.D. students at the University of Cambridge. It was formerly known as Heterogeneous. 

The company aimed to enroll more than 10,000 people and half a dozen new research projects by the end of 2019. 

Getting started with Sano Genetics

All participants register for free on the platform. 

A raw DNA upload is the first step to join research studies. Users can upload DNA data from 23andMe, Ancestry, FamilyTreeDNA, and more. Based on the provided information, Sano Genetics matches its users with research projects that could benefit from their information.

If a user has not already taken a DNA test, they can opt to use one of the DNA kits. After uploading raw data or taking a DNA test, users can choose whether they want their data to be accessible to researchers. 

Sano Genetics users also submit information on demographics, medical history, family history, and medication use. This enables matching users with research studies.

Review of Sano Genetics products

Sano Genetics offers three DNA testing kits. They differ by how much of the genome they analyze: Genotyping, Exome Plus, and Whole Genome DNA sequencing (Figure 1).

DNA tests offered by Sano Genetics.
Figure 1. DNA tests offered by Sano Genetics.
Genotyping
– Access to trait and common condition research reports
– Support research on common conditions
– about 30MB of raw DNA data plus 400MB of upgraded (imputed) data*
– Price: $150 (£125)
Exome plus
– Access to all trait and condition reports
– Support research on all common and rare conditions
– about 4GB of raw DNA data 
– Price: $550 (£450)
Whole Genome
– Access to all trait and condition reports
– Support research on all common and rare conditions
– about 100GB of raw data
– Price: $1200 (£950)

Some studies also offer access to free genetic testing in exchange for participation. Sano Genetics will alert account holders when these offers become available. 

Taking a Sano Genetics DNA Test

Sano Genetics customers can order a DNA testing kit online. They provide a saliva sample, register their kit online, and send the sample to a testing lab. Once the lab receives the sample, processing takes 10-12 weeks.

Results from the test are uploaded to the customer’s online account. The company also sends the customer the DNA testing results on an encrypted flash drive. 

A Sano Genetics Report

Available reports

All Sano Genetics users have access to a collection of articles on genetically-determined traits. The articles are written by experts in easy to understand language. They are presented as short blog posts that can generally be read in less than 10 minutes. Access to this information does not require DNA data.

Furthermore, Sano Genetics offers personalized trait reports to users who uploaded their genetic data or purchased a test. The reports are different from typical DNA reports because they are based on research studies that Sano Genetic has conducted. As of April 2020, there 15 different reports based on completed and ongoing studies:

Physical traits

  • Circadian rhythms 
  • Male pattern baldness
  • Nutrigenomics
  • Freckles 
  • Eye color

Senses & Reactions

  • Odor detection
  • Coffee and caffeine consumption
  • Nicotine dependence
  • Stress
  • Alcohol
  • Pain sensitivity
  • Taste preference

Specific conditions

  • Eczema
  • Psoriasis
  • Food allergies

Note, that to access these reports you need to participate in corresponding studies. 

Review of a Sano Genetics sample report

Let’s look at the food allergies report and male pattern baldness report (Figure 2).

This food allergies report looks at three genetic variants that are associated with peanut allergy, celiac disease, and lactose intolerance. The users are presented with their genotypes for each of the variants together with a risk assessment. In this report, the risks are predicted based on single variants.

The male pattern baldness report is more interesting. Male pattern baldness is a polygenic condition. To date variants in 71 genes have been associated with male pattern baldness. The risk of male pattern baldness can be calculated quite well by adding the effect sizes of those 71 genetic variants.

The Sano Genetics report appears to be doing some sort of polygenic score calculator. However, it appears to use only 3 variants. It is surprising that only a few variants are used because the company claims to impute uploaded DNA data. A polygenic score that is based on so few variants is unlikely to be accurate.

 

Personalized results of the food Sano Genetics allergies report and male pattern baldness report.

Figure 2. Personalized results of the food allergies report and male pattern baldness report.

Review of Sano Genetics research projects

As of April 1, 2020, there are 10 ongoing research studies. The goal of the studies is to find participants for clinical trials and help pharma and biotech companies with drug discovery.

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Genetics of stomach ulcers
  • Eczema (atopic dermatitis)
  • Psoriasis
  • The genetics of autism
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Severe food allergies
  • Phelan McDermid Syndrome (22q13 deletion syndrome)
  • DNA and human traits

Most appear to be conducted by Sano Genetics, but a few studies are collaborations with different non-profit research organizations including Imperial College of London, University of Liverpool, the Autism Research Centre and the Phelan-McDermid Syndrome Foundation.

To participate in studies, users upload raw DNA data and fill out a questionnaire for each study in which they decided to participate. They then choose whether to share their data with all researchers who use the Sano Genetics platform or just the researcher running the study. 

By default, a user’s data will only be used in the studies in which they agreed to participate. Other studies will not have access to DNA unless the user gives consent. 

Review of Sano Genetics Privacy Policy

Sano Genetics operates its genetic and medical research programs while maintaining a privacy focus. Terms and conditions state that participants must opt-in to participate in studies and can share as much or as little information as they chose. 

When registering for an account, users are asked about their demographics and medical history. 

Personalized information is shared with third parties who are conducting legitimate research activities. The shared genetic and health data is anonymized (de-identified). 

As a UK-based company, Sano Genetics does not transfer personal information outside the European Economic Area (EEA). 

Raw Genetic Data

Participants who choose to use one of Sano Genetics DNA test kits can download their raw genetic data. The results are available on the user’s account. Each user also receives a copy of the DNA test results on an encrypted flash drive. 

In the News

Sano Genetics was profiled on Medium and Front Line Genomics in 2019. These mentions came after the company raised £500,000 (almost $620,000) seed money from Seedcamp, Cambridge Enterprise, and several angel investors.

Sano Genetics recently launched a partnership with Genomelink. Genomelink users receive recruitment emails and can opt into participating in Sano Genetics research projects. 

Sano Genetics Reviews

Reviews of Sano Genetics DNA testing kit:

  • Sano Genetics began selling DNA testing kits in late 2019 in small batches of 20 kits per month. No reviews for these products are currently available. 

Reviews of Sano Genetics company: 

Review of Sano Genetics Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Privacy-focused – customers control which research studies have access to their data
  • Able to upload raw DNA data from other genetic testing sites
  • Able to download genetic information generated by the Sano Genetics test
  • Free DNA analysis when customers upload raw DNA

Cons

  • Genetic reports limited to conditions and traits related to research projects
  • Sano Genetics does not provide ancestry analysis
  • Small batches of testing kits that are not widely available

Nebula Genomics

In this final part of our Sano Genetics review, we will compare it to Nebula Genomics and other DNA testing companies.

Nebula Genomics is a genetic testing company that provides its customers access to whole genome sequencing. Our whole genome sequencing service is priced at $299 and is the most affordable on the market. We also offer free uploads and analysis of genetic data. 

We offer our users reports based on the latest scientific discoveries and tools to investigate their raw DNA data. This creates a highly dynamic experience that enables our users to explore their genomes at their own pace and answer any question that they might have. 

Furthermore, in collaboration with FamilyTreeDNA, we provide our users with an advanced ancestry analysis that is based on a full sequencing of mitochondrial DNA and Y chromosomes.

Similar to Sano Genetics, we also enable our users to share their data with research to help advance science. However, our focus is on making data sharing secure and transparent using various cryptographic technologies such as blockchain and privacy-preserving computing


Sano Genetics23andMeAncestryDNANebula Genomics
DNA testing MethodMicroarray-based genotyping, whole-exome sequencing, whole-genome sequencingMicroarray-based genotypingMicroarray-based genotypingWhole Genome Sequencing (30x coverage)
Ancestry analysis availableNoYesYesYes
Data sharing with researchersYesYes, but has been criticized for lack of transparency and control. NoYes. Secure data sharing enabled by privacy-preserving technologies.
Tools to explore dataNo LimitedLimited Yes (learn more)
Able to upload raw DNA dataYes (multiple formats)NoNoYes (23andMe and Ancestry)
Data accessYes (FASTQ, BAM, and VCF files)Yes (23andMe file format)Yes (AncestryDNA file format)Yes (FASTQ, BAM, and VCF files)
Cost$0 – $1200$99, $199, or $499$99 or $149$0 – $299

Sano Genetics vs 23andMe vs AncestryDNA vs Nebula Genomics

If you are interested in whole-genome sequencing, you should also consider Veritas Genetics. Did you like our Sano Genetics review? More reviews are available here!

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