Sano Genetics review – Are the free tests worth the price?

Sano Genetics Review Summary

Sano Genetics is a data-sharing platform that enables its users to participate in research studies. Read more in our Sano Genetics review!

Christina Marvin

Results
Price
Comprehensiveness

Summary

Sano Genetics provides a limited amount of genetic testing and reports but allows you to share your results and contribute to science for free.

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7 Facts from our Sano Genetics Review

  1. Location: Cambridge, England
  2. Products: Genetic testing for research and clinical purposes; DNA data upload
  3. Reports: a limited number of reports based on research studies carried out by the company and third parties
  4. Data access: yes
  5. Privacy: data sharing requires explicit consent
  6. Cost: DNA data upload is free; the company used to sell genetic tests at a price range of $150 – $1200
  7. Complimentary products: Nebula Genomics (free DNA upload; affordable whole genome sequencing)

This review is written with the intent to be as unbiased as possible. However, it represents the opinion of an individual reviewer and is therefore subjective. Furthermore, at Nebula Genomics we seek to educate the public about the benefits of Whole Genome Sequencing. Information about our Whole Genome Sequencing DNA test is therefore incorporated into the review.

September 7, 2022

Pros and Cons

Pros

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

Cons

  • Genetic reports are limited to conditions and traits related to research projects
  • No ancestry analysis
  • Testing kits are no longer available

Introduction

Sano Genetics began as a startup working to connect consumers and researchers to precision medicine research. Unlike other DNA sites, its business model focuses on connecting people with research rather than selling testing kits.

Participants can upload their DNA data and contribute to research studies, particularly on rare diseases. In return, participants get access to personalized reports based on research studies.

In some cases, research participants can also be paid. 

Patrick Short, CEO, Charlotte Guzzo, COO, and William Jones, CTO, founded Sano Genetics in 2017 when they were Ph.D. students at the University of Cambridge and working at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. It started as a research project under the name Heterogeneous.

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

Looking for affordable Whole Genome Sequencing? Nebula Genomics decodes 100% of your DNA!

We also provide new reports regularly based on the latest scientific discoveries. Click here to learn more!

Getting Started with Sano Genetics

All participants register for free on the platform. 

A raw DNA upload is the next step to joining research studies. Users can upload DNA data from 23andMe, Ancestry, FamilyTreeDNA, and more. Based on the provided information, the company matches its users with relevant research projects.

After uploading raw data, users can choose whether their information is accessible to researchers. 

Users also submit demographics, medical history, family history, and medication use to help find relevant research studies.

Review of Sano Genetics Products

NOTE: Sano Genetics no longer offers the DNA testing kits reviewed below. The information is for historical reference only.

The company offered three DNA testing kits. They differed by how much of the genome they analyzed: Genotyping, Exome Plus, and Whole Genome DNA sequencing.

Diagram depicting the percent of your DNA measured by gentotyping, Whole exome sequencing, and Whole genome sequencing at Sano Genetics
DNA tests previously 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 sequencing 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 Sequencing
– 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. The company will alert account holders when these offers become available. 

A Sano Genetics Report

Available reports

All users have access to a collection of articles on genetically-determined traits. These generally take less than 10 minutes to read. Access to this information does not require DNA data.

Furthermore, Sano Genetics offers personalized trait reports to users who uploaded their genetic data or participated in a study. As of August 2022, there are 34 reports based on completed and ongoing studies:

Physical traits

  • Circadian rhythms 
  • Male pattern baldness
  • Nutrigenomics
  • Freckles 
  • Eye color
  • Finger length ratios
  • Hair characteristics
  • Hair graying
  • Muscle power
  • Skin aging
  • Menopause
  • Snoring
  • Neanderthal DNA
  • Gap teeth
  • Male pattern baldness

Senses & Reactions

Specific conditions

Review of a Sano Genetics sample report

Let’s look at the Food Allergies and Male Pattern Baldness report. Personalized medicine reports are available for those who sign up for research studies.

This Food Allergies report looks at three genetic variants associated with peanut, milk, and gluten allergies. Users are presented with their genotypes for each variant and a risk assessment. In this report, the risks are predicted based on single variants.

The Male Pattern Baldness report is also interesting. Male pattern baldness is a polygenic condition with variants in 71 genes associated with it. The risk can be calculated quite well by adding the effect sizes of those 71 genetic variants.

The Sano Genetics report appears to be using some sort of polygenic score calculator. However, it seems to use only three variants. This is surprising given that the company claims to impute uploaded DNA data. A polygenic score based on so few variants is unlikely to be accurate.

 

Sample Sano Genetics reports with specific details for food allergies and male pattern baldness
Personalized results of the food allergies report and male pattern baldness report

Review of Sano Genetics Research Projects

Customers usually have a good number of options for joining a research study. The availability varies depending on the type of research and the length of the study. Not all projects happen at the same time.

As of early 2022, there are six ongoing research studies. The goal of the studies is to find participants for clinical trials and help pharma and biotech companies with drug discovery.

  • Ulcerative colitis at home genomics study (two-year study ending in August 2024)
  • APOLLOE4: Early Alzheimer’s disease (ends in September 2022)
  • Long COVID – GOLD study (ends in December 2022)
  • G2019S LRRK2 Parkinson’s Disease: Increasing Awareness and Genetic Testing Program (two-year studies taking place in the United States and in Canada ending in May 2023)
  • The Genetics of Autism (seven-year study ending in Dec 2025)

Most appear to be conducted by Sano Genetics, but a few are collaborations with different non-profit 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 they decide to join. They then choose whether to share their data with all researchers using the Sano Genetics platform or just the researcher running the study. 

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

Privacy Policy

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

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). 

Customers can choose to learn more about privacy settings or use recommended settings, dismissing this message.

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

Raw Genetic Data

Participants who used one of Sano Genetics DNA test kits can download their raw genetic data from the user’s account.

Sano Genetics in the News

Sano Genetics launched a partnership with Genomelink three years ago. Genomelink users receive recruitment emails and can participate in Sano Genetics research projects. 

The company has supported medical efforts to fight COVID-19. After receiving a £2.5m funding, it accelerated its research and provided 3,000 free at-home DNA tests for affected families.

Nebula Genomics

How does Sano Genetics compare to Nebula Genomics and other DNA testing companies? Let’s have a look.

Nebula Genomics provides access to whole genome sequencing. We also offer free uploads and analysis of genetic data. 

We offer users reports based on the latest research 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 questions they might have. 

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

We also give our members the option 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 methodNo longer availableMicroarray-based genotypingMicroarray-based genotypingWhole Genome Sequencing (30x coverage)
Ancestry analysis availableNoYesYesDeep ancestry reporting with full Y chromosome and mtDNA sequencing
Data sharing with researchersYesYes, but has been criticized for lack of transparency and controlNoYes. 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 accessN/AYes (23andMe file format)Yes (AncestryDNA file format)Yes (FASTQ, BAM, and VCF files)
Cost$0 – $1200$99 or $199$99 or $149$0, $99, $299

This company used to sell whole genome sequencing tests, but they are no longer available. If you are interested in whole-genome sequencing, you should also consider

Other sites that allow users to participate in research include 23andMe and LunaDNA (a community that allows users to sell their data to third parties).

Did you like our Sano Genetics review? You can read more reviews on our blog and check out our complete guide to the best DNA test kit and other home tests.