by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted July 3, 2007 in DNA Around the World, DNA and Genealogy
The controversy continues! After Dr. Ludvik Urban’s comments on genealogy DNA testing in the Czech Republic, Dr. Marek Minarik of Genomac contacted me and had the following to say about his company which offers Y-DNA and mtDNA testing.
We are a private family-based business that has started from absolute scratch back in 2001. It may sound as a clichÃ©, however, it is so. My sister and me were absolute outsiders in Czech genetic, forensic or even medical communities with no money no influential friends and no connections. At the beginning we haven’t privatized nor “inherited” any former hospital laboratory inventory, we haven’t “utilized nor leased” any university or other academic labs spaces while still being employed there (a favorite way to start a biotech company in the Czech republic). We have rented an empty basement and bought everything from pipettors and centrifuges to PCR machines and a second-hand DNA sequencer. Never in our company life we would have a liberty of regular payments from government (such as the payments for testing by health care insurance companies). We have built this company based on research projects and we have partially funded our scientific endeavors by commercial DNA testing(paternity, preventive, ancestry). Since 2001 we regularly publish 1 – 2 original scientific papers in impacted journals (IF>1) per year (first and/or last authorship) and co-author 1 – 2 with others. We were the second private laboratory in Czech to offer paternity testing and the first to offer ancestry testing. Back in 2005 we have voluntarily introduced a code of ethics in genetic testing. I am absolutely convinced that since our day one we have never broken any laws, we have never exhibited any kind of non-ethical or non-moral conduct.
Now to our ancestry testing. We have started Y-typing back in May 2006 and mitochondrial typing in March 2007. Our original product was (similar to Oxford Ancestry) testing a 12 Y-chromosome marker set and returning basically a Y-map showing matches and non-matches. Later we have started to add individual interpretations, which is what we do now. Never in my previous scientific or commercial life have I experienced such a hostility as when we finally got a break-through with ancestry testing after a media exposure in September 2006. An initial true excitement from the fact that someone is offering such service in Czech was quickly replaced by relentless criticism of overpricing, misrepresentation of data, etc. coming from individual genealogists and, later, especially from competition who also started to offer similar tests. We have originally charged CZK 1190,- ~$55 for Y-haplotype, since 2007 we charge CZK 2450,- ~ $110 for Y-haplotype plus individual interpretation (sorry for the mistake by Kim Ashton of Prague Post). As for the interpretations we inform customer about frequency of their haplotype and give them information about a geographic localization with the highest density of the associated profile. That is all, we do not tell people they are Slavic or German.
The saddest thing is the issue with Dr. Urban. Sincerely I have no idea why he adopted such a hate towards us. Back in 2006 when he got tested by us there was no sign of such animosity. He prompted us to add detailed Y-haplotype (DYS-marker values) data to our standard ancestry certificate and although many people (non-experts in genealogy) were puzzled by the significance of the marker allelic values it was probably a good idea in the long term. After we have respectfully declined his request for transferring all our genetic data to him, he got bitter – so I think.
And in response to Dr. Urban’s specific comments (in italics), Dr. Minarik had this to say:
1. Test by Genomac costs 2x more [2500 CZK].
Yes, this is true, our current price is CZK 2450,- for which one gets a GenoGraf(TM) certificate including Y-haplotype and a personalized interpretation of the geographic frequency of the DNA profile and the most possible explanation of the actual roots. The $55 was our initial price back in 2006 for which we have not included any personalized info.
2. Maybe yes, maybe not. But in the Czech Republic, it is prohibited by law to keep DNA samples of individual persons. Genomac does keep samples without government permission.
No this is not true. We keep DNA for archival purposes only and, in addition, having a special registration as a non-government health care provider we are fully entitled to store biological material.
3. The Genomacâ€™s database is not registered.
No this is not true. Any “processing of sensitive personal” data must be first announced to the Office of personal data protection. Our genographic database contains no personal information at all, therefore we did not feel a need to fill the announcement form. Yes, it is true that even though we were convinced that no registration was necessary we could have done so anyway and it was a big mistake not to do to and to blatantly provide such a “heavy” argument to our oponents. We have absolutely no reason not to register, we are currently in contact with the Office and should get the clearance soon.
4. Genomac as a result of its genographic test sells a map downloaded from YHDR database with erased copyright and without YHDR permission.
Sorry, due to ongoing negotiations I can not comment on this issue.
5. As a admin of Genebaze, a genealogy website, and in the name of genealogy community I offered to Genomac a cooperation, especially in a
search for common ancestors. It refused.
No this is not true. Dr.Urban did not offer a collaboration in search of common ancestor, he simply requested us to send our data over to him. By current Czech law we are not allowed to submit any genetic data to any third party without a written consent from our customers. Such arrangement was not a part of our informed consent signed by the customers so we simply cannot do that.
6. By the same time [last September] Genomac decided to sell ONLY YHDR maps, NOT markers values! After my query it started to sell marker
values for additional raised price.
This is partially true. After incurring additional labor cost with preparation of special “Result protocols” with the Y-haplotypes (in addition to the standard certificate) we have started to charge an administrative fee of $35. After a very negative reaction from Dr. Urban and his fellow genealogists we have dropped the fee about 2 weeks later.
7. I hope Genomac will soon fulfill the law and open its database. It promises that search the its database will find oneâ€™s ancestors and relatives.
Unfortunately due to ongoing negotiations with the Office (initiated upon an anonymous tip to the Office) we had to postpone opening of the database until we get clearance.
8. What makes me sad is the fact that Genomac still refuses to prepare testfor more than 12 markers [<cite>â€12 is enough, when YHDR as a
reference hasless markersâ€</cite>]
No this is not true. We do not refuse it – it is simply not requested by our customers. I have made a special offer to the community of genealogy enthusiasts (50 to 100 people max.) to provide more markers for discounted price upon receiving a cumulative order of at least 20. There was absolutely zero response further indicating that there is very limited if none interest.
10. …and also refuses to store data about most distant ancestors. It refuses to evaluate obtained haplotypes by any haplogroup predictions.
No this is not true, we have never discussed any of those issues and we have no reason not to do so should there be a request like that.
11. …Instead of it, it produces a â€œcertificate of originâ€ with these results:
â€œwest-slavicâ€, â€œromanicâ€, â€œsouth-slavicâ€, â€œscandinavian-germanâ€,
â€œmediterran-balkanic-north africanâ€, â€œmediterran-near east-asianâ€,
â€œbaltic-scandinavian-siberianâ€ and â€œmediterran-kaukasicâ€.
Well almost correct. Interpretation of genealogy data is indeed complicated. The above terms are not represented as “results”, they are used in the interpretation text in a wider context of the most frequent appearance of a given profile and a possibility.
Thank you, Dr. Minarik, for telling us your side of the story!
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