DNA testing startup Helix just launched its app store for genetics

Helix DNA 3
A Helix test kit, used for the Geno 2.0 test. Hollis Johnson

DNA testing startup Helix has launched an “app store” for your genetic code with a number of partners offering tests on its new platform.

The company and its launch partners are coming out with 20 tests that are powered by Helix’s DNA-sequencing technology.

The tests explore everything from your ancestry to nutrition to some health tests that will require a doctor’s prescriptions, including one that tells you about your inherited cholesterol and diabetes risks.

Changing the DNA-testing game

Every time you do a DNA test and send in a sample of spit, parts of your same genes are just getting sequenced again and again. Helix wants to cut out that physical step.

Instead of sending your spit 10 different places for 10 different tests, you could just let companies access your genetic code. Say you want to learn about your ancestry. You can pay for National Geographic’s Geno 2.0 test and send in your tube of spit to Helix. Your results would come back through National Geographic’s system, and you wouldn’t necessarily have to do anything with Helix ever again once it’s done sequencing your DNA.

But say you want to try Vinome, a test that uses insights from your DNA to determine your taste in wine. Since you’ve already had your spit analysed, all you have to do is let Vinome access that information, and your results will come back to you in a matter of days, much faster than the six to eight weeks you might otherwise wait with a physical sample. It also cuts down on some of the cost.

It can also introduce more companies to the DNA-testing space. Instead of having to invest in physical labs and sequencing machines, all companies have to do is focus on the software that turns the analysed DNA into useful reports. Kao said about a third of the tests coming out on the marketplace on Monday are from existing companies that haven’t been in the DNA-testing space, such as Lose It!, a company that makes a weight-loss app.

That could change the way we think about DNA. Helix cofounder Justin Kao told Business Insider that the hope is to make DNA as seamlessly integrated into people’s lives as GPS has become. Through apps like Lyft or Yelp, we don’t exactly think of ourselves as using GPS, since it’s just something that powers the app.

“That’s where we’re going with genomics,” Kao said. Instead of actively thinking about our DNA, it could just be integrated into an app that tells us about a certain fitness plan.

The tests range in cost from around $US20 to the hundreds of dollars.