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23andMe Opens Application Interface to Outside Developers

Anne Wojcicki (23andMe Inc.)

Anne Wojcicki (23andMe Inc.)

The personal genetics company 23andMe Inc. in Mountain View, California will make available to outside systems developers the codes and routines needed to access its DNA analysis database. Mike Polcari, the company’s engineering director, will describe the initiative at the Quantified Self Conference in Palo Alto, California, on 16 September.

An application program interface (API), as this set of codes and routines is called, provides a standardized way of accessing 23andMe’s technology across multiple platforms. An open API encourages developers to use common syntax and conventions, which often results in more consistent applications, making it easier for end-users. While an API can expand the number of outlets for the host company’s services, it can also expose that company’s intellectual property.

The company’s services include tracing one’s ancestry and finding relatives, but also testing for the risk of passing on genetic diseases, such as cystic fibrosis, identifying inherited risks of developing diabetes and other chronic disorders, and helping personalize treatments for some diseases. “Opening our API offers an immense opportunity for customers to do more with their DNA,” says 23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki (pictured right), adding “the API will open the door to the possibility of new Web-based interactive tools to be developed by external groups.”

The API will enable third-party developers to write software that access 23andMe’s DNA database. Individuals will first need to submit saliva samples and have their DNA analyzed. The API will then let the outside developers access that individual’s genetic profile, to which the developer can add services or value.

To access the database, third-party developers need to get permission from the individual, who will provide an authorization key from 23andMe. That key will let the developer get a security token that meets Internet Engineering Task Force standards. Each key and corresponding token will be unique for an individual.

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