It seems like every time you turn around, another DNA testing or reporting service is cropping up. With so many services available it can be difficult to work out which one to choose.
We’ve taken a look at the many different service providers and reviewed their products and services so you don’t have to!
Today, we’re looking at Promethease, a DNA report service that uses peer-reviewed research to create your customized DNA report.
Promethease is a DNA report service. It does not test your DNA. Instead, it uses the raw data generated by other DNA testing companies to produce a detailed report.
Rather than spitting in a tube and packing that off, you send over the raw data file for the company to analyze.
Promethease uses a website called SNPedia which is a wiki that shares information about how variations in DNA affect the carrier. It is a heavily sourced website that makes extensive use of peer-reviewed scientific publications.
The report that they send out is only focused on health conditions and traits found in your DNA. This is not a heritage or ancestry service.
Interestingly, Promethease is owned by an ancestry company. Both Promethease and SNPedia were acquired by My Heritage in 2019.
My Heritage is an Israeli genealogy company that does offer DNA testing to discover your genetic heritage. It would appear that My Heritage wanted to acquire a health report service to compete with the likes of 23andMe and Ancestry.com.
The Promethease Service
Promethease offers one service; DNA health reports. This may be seen as quite a limited company and service however, if you do one thing exceptionally well then it’s better than doing lots of things poorly. Right?
The question is whether Promethease reports are good enough to warrant building a whole company around.
Established in 2008, Promethease was among the earliest of the DNA reporting companies. They used the data from other companies to develop highly detailed health reports which weren’t routinely offered by companies at the time.
Over the last 12 years, that service has remained largely the same. Unfortunately, lots of other companies have widened their scope and now also offer health reports.
So what can Promethease offer that other companies can’t?
Well, their unique selling point is based on their use of the SNPedia wiki.
SNPedia is a database of research around single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) which, in layman’s terms, just means the variations in DNA.
To be clear, this wiki does not conduct research into DNA variations. It is a huge collection of studies and publications that focus on SNP. This database really is incredible. You can find detailed studies and information about hundreds and thousands of gene variants.
A lot of the information and data is quite scientific which can be difficult to understand. This is especially true if you’re not involved in scientific research.
Promethease acts as a bit of an in-between. It uses the SNPedia to establish what the variants in your genes mean and relays that information to you in a slightly more understandable tone.
If you want to take your knowledge and understanding further, you can access the scientific publications held on SNPedia with a few clicks.
The other thing Promethease does is narrow down the SNPedia. Instead of trawling through the site for relevant information, it selects the studies and publications that have the most meaning for you.
We will look more closely at the reports generated by Promethease in a later section. Before we head that way, there’s one more thing to consider. The price.
Promethease charges $12 for their service. It’s pretty inexpensive compared to lots of other DNA services. However, you will need to have a DNA test from a company like 23andMe or Ancestry. These services tend to cost upwards of $50. As such, you’ll need to factor that cost into your budget.
If you’ve already had a DNA test, then the Promethease DNA report is a pretty inexpensive service that can help you get the most out of your DNA results.
When you land on the Promethease website you are greeted by a fairly intimidating list of terms and conditions.
Some of these terms are fairly standard covering data protection and the purpose of the service. These include:
- “I understand that the information provided in my Promethease report is based on SNPedia.com and that my report is for educational and research purposes only.”
- “I understand that my report is deleted after 45 days but that I can download it before it is deleted and that I can regenerate it if I create an account.”
Then you get some statements that are more specific to the service, for example:
- “I accept the risk of learning that I may be at high risk for a debilitating disease.”
- “I understand that my Promethease report will not include information about predicted response to any specific medications.”
- I am aware that I am strongly encouraged to discuss my Promethease report with a doctor, genetic counselor, or other health-care providers prior to making any medical or reproductive decisions. I also acknowledge that I am advised to confirm any significant finding discovered in part through the use of Promethease by an independent, clinically validated test for use in connection with the medical trait in question.
We’re not entirely sure what risks are inherent in learning about your predisposition to disease. Our best guess is that it is a way of exempting the company from litigation if people aren’t pleased with their results.
Those last two terms are particularly important and also great to see. Promethease shows themselves to be responsible service providers by ensuring participants are aware of where and how to use and interpret their results.
Once you have accepted the terms and conditions, you are presented with a video to watch. The video is essentially a tutorial that covers uploading your raw data, purchasing the report, viewing the report, and how to read and search the report.
I’m not going to lie, it’s a very dry video. You won’t be particularly excited about it, but the information it presents is important.
Promethease doesn’t seem to be particularly concerned about creating excitement. The website and the report are fairly soviet in that they are functional but not particularly pleasant to look at.
When you compare the Promethease website with competitors like Genomelink and LivingDNA, you’re not particularly filled with confidence.
Promethease is definitely operating with the assumption that the SNPedia database sets them apart. As such, they don’t seem to value marketing or user experience as much as other companies.
It’s an odd stance to take and we’re not entirely sure how effective it is considering the fact that Promethease is postulated as a consumer product.
If it was solely a research service aimed at scientists then we might accept the somewhat bland landing page and reports. However, the general public likes to have an engaging and enjoyable user experience.
Once you’ve watched the video you can use two buttons to upload your raw data. You have a choice of uploading from a URL or uploading from your computer.
Once that first raw data is uploaded you can upload further data for other tests you may have done.
The video is at pains to emphasize the fact that this is not the stage to add other family member’s information.
If you want to generate reports for different people, you need to go through the whole process independently for each person.
If you do add another person’s data at this point, they will only appear as a comparison to your DNA later in your report.
After uploading your data you are presented with a payment portal and then a screen that tells you how soon your report will be generated.
This is where Promethease really shines. Their reports take around 15 minutes to generate. You can watch your status change and get real-time updates on how long you’ve been waiting and how much longer your report will take.
Promethease is at least as quick as most other DNA reporting companies. There are a few companies like Nebula that offer free services with similarly quick results. However, these free reports tend to be fairly limited in nature.
Once your report has been generated, you can open it in the browser or open the link that is sent to your email. At some point, you will need to download your report. This is because your information, including your report, is deleted after 45 days.
If you want to keep your report you’ll need to save it to your computer.
This is a hefty report and you’ll need to rely on the tutorial that pops up quite heavily to make the most out of your report.
Unlike competitor’s reports, Promethease has a lot of filtrations and metrics that allow you to narrow down your report. This makes it much easier to understand your report.
We’re going to take a look at some of the metrics and filtration methods used by Promethease here. If you’re interested in getting a more detailed understanding of the system, you can view their tutorial video here.
Starting simply, there is a search function on your report. You can search for specific genomes if you know them, or you can search for a keyword.
For example, if you’re interested in finding out whether you have a variant that affects your risk of Parkinson’s disease you could search for Parkinson’s, brain, or rs2736990 which is the specific genome related to that condition.
The search feature is a wonderful way to explore your results, particularly if you are only interested in a few specific topics.
One of the other things you’ll want to pay attention to is the repute scale. Promethease has essentially ranked each genome according to whether it has a good impact on your health, a bad impact on your health, or a not yet listed effect on your health.
Each separate genome segment has a border that is either green, red, or gray to correspond to the repute scale. At the top of the page is a pie chart. This changes depending on what keyword you search for. It gives you an overall idea of how your DNA affects the searched aspects.
This pie chart also displays the overall score for your whole report when you aren’t searching for anything. You can mouse over the pie chart to see the breakdown of each part.
Another interesting matrix used by Promethease is the magnitude scale. Essentially, this helps you to establish which genome reports are worth your time. The scale runs from 0-10 with a few decimals in between. The higher the number, the more interesting and important the report is.
You can see the full scale below:
You have the common genotype, for which nothing interesting is known.
You have a common genotype but, interestingly, yours differs from others.
Not very interesting.
Looks interesting enough to be worth reading.
Probably worth your time.
Male/Female sex cells. This is used for quality control but anything over this is definitely worth your time.
Really significant information.
We’ll be honest, the scale is quite confusing. It doesn’t seem to have been written by a native speaker. However, from what we can work out, anything ranked 2 is probably going to be quite interesting. If it’s ranked 4 or over it’s definitely worth reading.
You can filter your report using a magnitude slider on the right-hand side of the page. This lets you remove anything ranked below a specified number. We do love this metric, even if the scale is quite confusing. It just makes it easier to sort the chaff from the wheat.
You can also filter your report by the number of publications that support the particular genome report. This is an excellent feature as it allows you to see what variants are backed by significant research. If you are interested in academic practice, you’ll love this feature.
Even if you’re not particularly academic minded, this feature lets you see what parts of the reports are backed by significant peer-reviewed research. It essentially lets you see which parts are more reliable than others.
This is quite a unique feature and only really possible thanks to the link between Promethease and SNPedia. What we love is that you not only get information about your genetic variants and how they affect your health, but you can also access research that tells you exactly why these variants impact your health. You don’t really get this with other DNA testing or reporting services.
There are lots of other buttons and sliders that let you play around with the report results. You can use the tutorial video to get a better understanding of these metrics and filtrations.
The text of the report is fairly accessible. It does use a lot of scientific language but tries it’s best to translate this into layman terms. When you click through to SNPedia, the language and information are much more difficult to interpret without some level of scientific understanding.
As you’ll already know from the terms and conditions that greet you, your data and report are deleted after 45 days. This is only true if you create an account.
Creating an account is completely optional. If you don’t create an account then your data will be removed within 24 hours.
In terms of selling your data, Promethease states that they may give your data to third parties such as payment processors that Promethease uses to manage their service.
To be perfectly honest, this service is actually very safe. The only potentially hackable information that is transferred is your payment details. You don’t need to enter any names, dates of birth, or other information. Even your email address is optional.
As for your DNA data, this is anonymized so you can’t be identified through it.
All your information is transferred via HTTP websites and stored according to national guidelines.
There are a lot of things to love about Promethease. It offers incredibly detailed health information that can be sorted and filtered in a huge number of ways. The major selling point is the fact that it is backed by huge amounts of peer-reviewed publications.
The user interface may not be particularly intuitive or pleasant to look at, but we can forgive this thanks to the sheer amount of information and data provided.
- Incredibly detailed health reports.
- Low cost for the service.
- Lots of new metrics and filtrations.
- Robustly backed by peer-reviewed publications.
- Approximately 15 minute turnaround time.
- Confusing and difficult to navigate.
- Poorly designed user interface.