In a Nutshell
- CLIA and CAP-accredited genomics lab
- Uses DNA sequencing rather than genotyping
- Correlations between genes and traits isn’t totally clear-cut
Those looking for personalized diet and lifestyle advice based on their DNA.
Why Go With Helix DNA
Helix is a great choice for anybody concerned with finding out more than just their family lineage. The company does offer a great line of ancestry-related kits in association with partner companies including National Geographic and Insitome (these chart migration paths and provide insights into ancestors’ diets), but Helix’s real uniqueness lies in the actionable recommendations which it provides to consumers.
What’s On Offer
Helix sells 4 lines of DNA testing kits: ancestry, health, wellness, and entertainment.
The Ancestry collection allows users to learn more about the migration patterns of their forebears (Geno 2.0), discover which regional cluster they came from (Regional Ancestry), and even find out which unique traits were likely inherited from Neanderthal ancestors.
For its Health collection, Helix has partnered with illustrious institutions, including the Mayo Clinic, to provide users with the ability to discover how their genetic background might be having an impact on their current state of health (Mayo Clinic GeneGuide™). Another noteworthy kit is the Inherited Cholesterol Kit, by Admera Health, which lets users know if they are genetically predisposed to an inherited form of extremely high “bad” cholesterol. An Inherited Diabetes Test lets users know whether they have a rare, inherited form of the condition.
The Helix Wellness kits, the company’s flagship collection, allow users to take actionable decisions about what foods are best suited to them based on their genetic composition.
The kits rely upon apparent correlations between certain genetic makeups and optimal macronutrient and calorie intakes, but users should be aware that the science in this regard is still emerging. For those ready to take the leap of faith, however, kits like the award-winning Diet Fitness Pro 360, which recommend exercise profiles and eating habits based on DNA results, could at least provide the motivation to get serious about an exercise or wellness regime.
The final category of testing kit that Helix offers is its entertainment kits. These more lighthearted products, such as Wine Explorer (which provides wine recommendations according to DNA data) allow users to have some fun with their findings.
Other kits in this category, which would also make perfect gifts, include the StartLine kit (which assesses how your DNA fares against that of elite athletes) as well as BabyGlimpse which provides details about your future offspring, such as what eye color they are likely to have.
Ease Of Use
All kits that provide insights into the user’s DNA require that the customer be sequenced.
Thankfully, because of the cutting-edge, next generation sequencing that the company uses (which also provides almost 100 times more data than most at-home DNA testing kits) users only have to provide a small saliva sample and return it using the prepaid envelope that the kits come with.
To provide a saliva samples users simply have to:
- Remove a plastic testing kit from the product box it came in.
- Remove the collection tube and fill it with saliva.
- Seal the tube with a cap.
- Place the collection bag in the return box and post it back to the company.
The only other requirement is that users cannot drink, eat, smoke, chew gum, or brush their teeth for 30 minutes prior to providing the sample.
Because the customer’s identify is indicated by a barcode that comes with the pack, no user-produced documentation is required.
Speed Of Kit Delivery And Results
- Users get notified by email once their results are ready.
- Sequencing typically takes between 4 and 8 weeks to process.
- Typically, it takes an additional 3 to 5 business days for the returned sample to make it to their lab.
Results are presented online in an attractive dashboard format.
DNA Test Type
The company uses a type of DNA sequencing that has been certified to comply with the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) quality standards and which has also been accredited by the College of American Pathologists (CAP).
Helix’s sequencing reads genome pairs against a reference to determine variations—what makes the users’ samples unique.
Tests offered include ancestry tests to determine ancestral origin, health tests to test for specific conditions (including a genetic form of diabetes and hypercholesterolemia), and wellness tests to advise upon dietary and lifestyle modifications based on results.
Reports depend on the kit ordered, but all are presented through Helix’s online dashboard.
The information is presented in a visually pleasing format with plenty of graphics.
Some kits, such as the Neanderthal DNA Kit, provide primarily a top-line figure. Others, such as the BabyGlimpse kit, offer deep dives into specific findings, such as likely eye color with accompanying probabilities.
Helix has certainly put considerable effort into the customer care area. Its support team can be reached via a ticketing system or by dialing their call center, which operates from 6am to 5pm PT during weekdays. Those that prefer to try self-help resources before reaching out to representatives will be spoiled for choice with a huge amount of resources available in the knowledge center, including tutorials that feature multimedia content.
Helix’s prices include prepaid shipping to return the samples, and full access to the test results dashboard.
Helix offers most of its tests in conjunction with partners, a list which includes reputable organizations such as the Mayo Clinic. The company may share genetic data with one of its partners, but this can be easily disabled from the user dashboard. The company also may use a portion of their users’ genetic information, as well as basic data, to improve their products and services. All research the company conducts is IRB (Institutional Research Board) vetted and approved. In the event that the company is approach by a law enforcement agency, it says that it evaluates the merits of the request on a case-by-case basis and notifies the subject first—unless it is legally prohibited from doing so.
Helix offers a diverse line of kits that take advantage of its Next Generation Genotyping which allows it to discover user variations from a very small sample. Its long list of kits, delivered in conjunction with company partners, allow users to plumb various insights from their genetic code, including their (probable) optimal diet, Neanderthal percentage, and even which wines they will probably like.
While the company is seriously committed to conducting scientifically rigorous examinations of users’ DNA, users should be aware that any recommended lifestyle or wellness changes cannot be guaranteed to be accurate.
Based in California, Helix DNA was founded 4 years ago by Scott Burke, Justin Kao, and James Lu. The company operates a sequencing laboratory based in San Diego, while its corporate headquarters is in the San Francisco Bay Area. The company is financially backed by a consortium of acclaimed venture capital firms that includes illumina, Warburg Pincus, and the Mayo Clinic.
Unlike many of its competitors, the company has taken an activist approach toward recruiting partner organizations with which it co-delivers testing kits. These organizations have included National Geographic (Helix sequenced DNA for the publication’s Genographic Project) and the Mayo Clinic. The company has also partnered with the Desert Research Institute to offer free genomic sequencing to 40,000 residents of Nevada as part of a health study. The company’s current CEO is Robin Thurston.
Phone: (+1) 844.211.2070