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7 August 2020
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23Mofang

Chinese 23andMe Knockoff Gives Different Results From 23andMe

"It's a gimmick. It's so ridiculous."
by Dan Robitzski / December 05 2019

23Mofang, a Chinese DNA testing startup that’s highly similar to 23andMe — down to its name — is giving customers some interesting results.

Notably, it totally missed Bloomberg reporter K. Oanh Ha’s predominately Vietnamese heritage. That’s because the company relies entirely on a pool of genetic data from Chinese participants, according to Bloomberg, so ancestry reports only trace people’s DNA back to various regions of China.

But more troubling was how the 23Mofang also made questionable predictions about Ha’s future and current health risks.

Ha took both tests, and the differences were stark. 23andMe, for instance, makes some health predictions — Ha noticed that her reported risk of diabetes kept changing on her before vanishing and resurfacing with some legalese disclaimers.

But that pales in comparison to 23Mofang. Among other things, the Chinese company predicted that she would probably live until the age of 95 and was at risk for a long list of diseases including type 2 diabetes and bipolar disorder.

“Ninety-five years old? There’s no way to put a number on longevity,” Scripps Research Translational Institute founder and geneticist Eric Topol told Bloomberg. “It’s a gimmick. It’s so ridiculous.”

Also concerning about 23Mofang’s results: in breaking down customer’s ancestry, it tells them the extent to which they’re of Uighur descent. The Chinese government is actively persecuting against its Muslim Uighur population, having rounded up at least a million of them into detention camps.

Because some of the people sent to those camps have been subjected to genetic research, the ancestry report raises red flags — especially because 23Mofang CEO Zhou Kun told Bloomberg that the company would share people’s results with the government if it were asked to.

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