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Who am I? Young Chinese seek answer in genetic testing

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Life sciences website STAT reports on the growing demand amongst “tech-savvy and college-educated young professionals” for genetic testing services.

  • 23Mofang is a Chinese genetic testing company profiled in the article. Although the name seems to have been cribbed from California-based 23andMe, mofang is not 模仿 (mófǎng, or “imitate”) but rather 魔方 (mó fāng, or “magic cube”).
  • The appeal of genetic testing seems similar to astrology as well as to popular Chinese superstitions about blood type and personality: “Much of Chinese consumers’ interest in genetic testing, though, is rooted in a strong belief that genetics can explain their identity — not only their risk of disease or ancestral origins, but also their personality, their likes and dislikes, and their future. The rhetoric compelling consumers to sequence their genomes sounds like astrology, but with the veneer of science.”
  • The “Chinese customer’s desire to understand their destiny and identity” is the basis of 23Mofang’s marketing: “‘Who am I?’ the bold letters at the top of the homepage read. ‘What special characteristics do I have? What will my future be like?’” Many customers are only children who also want to uncover extended family ties.
  • There are more than 100 companies in the space, including Shenzhen-based WeGene and Beijing-based Novogene and 360°Gene, which are “also big players.”

Related: 5 biggest risks of sharing your DNA with consumer genetic-testing companies on CNBC.

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Jeremy Goldkorn

Jeremy Goldkorn worked in China for 20 years as an editor and entrepreneur. He is editor-in-chief of SupChina, and co-founder of the Sinica Podcast.

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