HomeDNA is a subsidiary of DNA Diagnostics Center, Inc. This company started with paternity testing, establishing itself as one of the premier DNA laboratories in North America. In 2016, it began offering the HomeDNA line, which includes ancestry tests and health/beauty tests. The company is also one of only a handful of companies offering DNA analysis for your dog or cat. The company offers a wide variety of products, discussed below, and is still far from the size of mega competitors like 23andMe, Ancestry or MyHeritage.
HomeDNA Overview and Basic Data
|Can be used for||Ancestry DNA Testing
Maternal and Paternal Lineage Testing
Health and Wellness DNA Testing
Pet DNA Testing
|DNA collection||Cheek Swab|
|Number of SNPs tested||850,000|
|DNA sample stored||Indefinitely, can be deleted on request|
|Price||$39 – $199|
|Platform matching for family||No|
|Geographical analysis of ancestry||Yes, with specialty Asian and African ancestry tests|
|Special Features||Uses a unique algorithm to determine your ancestral origins, online platform for exploring results|
|Number of users||Over 10 Million|
|Ownership||DNA Diagnostics Center, Inc.|
|Address||1 DDC Way
Fairfield, OH 45014
|Client Reviews||2 of 5 Stars with the Better Business Bureau
3 – 4 of 5 Stars on Amazon, for different products
2.5 – 4.3 of 5 Stars on Bazaarvoice, for different products
Company background for HomeDNA
The brand HomeDNA is a spinoff owned by the DNA Diagnostics Center, founded in 1995. The Center has been providing paternity and forensic DNA testing services for over 20 years to a global clientele. In 2016, the company began offering a number of at-home DNA tests under different brands. The HomeDNA brand includes health and wellness testing options. The GPS Origins brand includes a number of DNA ancestry testing options, based on the work of Dr. Eran Elhaik from the University of Sheffield. The company also offers a number of tests for cats and dogs that identify breed composition and potential genetic health risks.
HomeDNA now offers a wide variety of tests, available both online and in stores. The test kits are carried by CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens, and Walmart.
HomeDNA Offerings Review
The company offers a wide range of ancestry testing options, based on your needs. If you have already taken a DNA test, the cheapest option is to upload your raw DNA data to the GPS Origins Algorithm, for only $39. This will put your DNA results through the unique algorithm used by HomeDNA. If you have not previously taken a DNA test, there are a number of other ancestry testing options.
The most thorough option is the GPS Origins Ancestry Test, available for $199. This test also comes in specialized African and Asian versions, for those with ancestry outside of Europe. HomeDNA also offers the HomeDNA Starter Ancestry Test, which is a heavily watered-down version of the test for only $69. The HomeDNA Advanced Ancestry Test runs at $124, and it is largely the same as the GPS Origins Ancestry Test. However, you will not get access to your raw DNA data with this slightly cheaper version. HomeDNA also offers DNA Origins Maternal and Paternal Lineage tests for $69, which can analyze your mtDNA and Y-DNA, respectively.
HomeDNA claims their unique algorithm for ancestry testing is more accurate than other ancestry testing methods. The algorithm was designed by Dr. Elhaik from the University of Sheffield, who published his method in Nature. Dr. Elhaik worked with the National Geographic Geno project, which was one of the largest genealogy studies ever conducted. However, this is the only scientific article referenced by the ancestry tests. Therefore, the acceptance of the methods by the wider scientific community is not documented.
Health & Beauty Tests
HomeDNA offers 4 DNA tests within this category. The first is the HomeDNA Food & Pet Sensitivity test, which supposedly analyzes your genetic predisposition to be irritated by several common allergens. For $99, this test will analyze your genes and predict which of the irritants are likely to affect you. It should be noted that a warning on the HomeDNA website states that this is not an allergy test, it is simply revealing correlations within your DNA that could make you more susceptible to allergies.
The HomeDNA Healthy Weight test claims to analyze your DNA to provide a diet and exercise strategies customized to your genetic makeup. This test is $199, and it gives recommendations on foods to eat, optimal nutrients for your genetic makeup, and the best exercises to achieve your healthiest weight. While the test is backed by many scientific studies, some areas are backed by single studies which do not fully support the conclusions being made by the report.
The company also offers a “beauty” test, called the HomeDNA Skin Care test. This test analyzes your DNA for correlations with traits such as collagen quality, skin elasticity, sun protection, pigmentation, and other skin-related traits. In total, this test is based on only 28 genetic markers and none of the actual scientific papers are referenced on the HomeDNA website. For $99, the test will get you a report of many of these aspects about your skin. However, it is unclear how predictable these traits actually are.
The HomeDNA Paternity test was the first test offered by the DNA Diagnostics Center, now $164. The test is the #1 paternity test in the United States, and the company has completed millions of the tests since its inception in 1995. The test is highly accurate and has been used in high profile cases.
Pet DNA Tests
HomeDNA partners with the company Orivet to provide animal DNA testing for dogs and cats. For your dog, you can get the Mixed Breed Identification DNA Test & Life Plan, for $125. The test will compare your dog’s DNA to 220 of the most popular breeds to determine their breed composition. It also provides weight predictions, nutritional suggestions, and a basic health schedule for your dog.
The Dog DNA Health Screen and Life Plan is similar to the previous product, though it does not analyze your dog’s breed composition. Instead, it screens for over 100 genetic diseases and traits your dog may have. This test is also $125.
If you have a cat, you may be interested in the Cat DNA Health Screen and Life Plan, also $125. This test analyzes over 40 genetic diseases found in cats, and gives you information on other inherited traits your cat may have.
The science behind all of these tests is murky, and not clearly referenced. While there is peer-reviewed science based in these areas, it is not clear which studies the tests are based on.
What separates HomeDNA from other companies in that regard?
HomeDNA is one of the only at-home DNA testing brands available in-store in different pharmacies. The company’s ancestry tests claim to have a unique and more accurate way of testing genetic ancestry, though these claims are not well supported with scientific evidence. The company does have unique offerings with their Asian and African ancestry tests, which are more specific for people with those ancestral heritages.
How it works, what will your kit include?
After buying your kit in-store or online, you must register your kit on the HomeDNA website. Pet testing kits are registered on the Orivet website. The kit comes with a simple cheek swab, which is used to collect cells from the inside of your cheek. The swab is placed within a envelope and mailed back to the company.
Depending on the test you took, the processing times vary. The paternity test gives the fastest results, in only a few days after the test is received and processed. Other tests, such as the ancestry and health tests, can take up to 6 weeks to process. Results are available on the online platform once the sample has been processed.
It should be noted that several online reviews have complained about additional lab fees that come when the kit is registered. The HomeDNA website does not make it clear if the price of the kit includes the lab fee, or if it is added on when the kit is registered. Users have complained about having to pay an additional $99 in lab fees before their kit could be processed.
Will your data be shared?
Media coverage and user opinions
Unfortunately, HomeDNA has seen relatively little media coverage since its inception in 2016. Of the articles that do exist, there are a few which compare HomeDNA to other testing services. Others detail the companies inner workings. Check out the articles below for more information:
- The Seattle Times – Reporter’s DNA ancestry tests ‘caught me off guard’
- Cision PR Newswire – HomeDNA™: The First Suite of Easy At-Home DNA Tests Offered in Retail Stores Nationwide
- Forbes – Doggy DNA Kits: Embark vs Wisdom Panel vs HomeDNA
- GlobeNewsire – DNA Diagnostics Center®, an Established Global Leader in Diagnostic and Genetic Testing, Names Scott Cramer President and Chief Executive Officer
In general, users appear to be happy with HomeDNA tests. However, there was an underlying theme across the reviews which suggested that HomeDNA has poor customer service and may make some of its fees hidden to customers until after they purchase a product. On Amazon, each HomeDNA test has different reviews, but they all fall within the 2-4 star range. However, the Paternity test has been reviewed by over 2,000 people at Walgreens.com, and it has a rating of nearly 5 of 5 stars. However, users from Walgreens also rated the HomeDNA Ancestry test at only 2.9 stars out of 5. This seems to suggest that HomeDNA’s newest offerings are not as good as their flagship paternity test.
Users who are happy with HomeDNA mentioned the following points:
- The unique algorithm used by HomeDNA can provide very specific and accurate results.
- Many users experienced a quick turnaround time of only 3 weeks to receive results.
- The ancestry tests include relevant historical information that many users find helpful and informative.
- Many users like the option of buying the kit in-store.
- Users of the health tests found the nutrition information informative and actionable.
- The skin health test includes information on which moisturizers and creams to buy, a feature several users found helpful.
Users giving HomeDNA a 1-star review mentioned the following worthy points:
- Depending on where you purchase the test, there may be additional “lab fees”, which are hidden until you try to register the kit.
- The email from the company telling you results are ready gets removed by most email programs into the “Spam” or “Promotions” folder of your email. Many users never received it.
- Several users complained their results were never received or were not delivered in a timely manner.
- Users of some of the basic products found very little in the 1-page report they received.
- Many users did not get specific breakdowns of their ethnicity, just vague percentages of “European”.
- Many users complain the price of the tests are not worth the information you receive.
Bottom line conclusions for this HomeDNA review
DNA Diagnostics Center, Inc. has been in the DNA testing industry for over 20 years. Their paternity test is likely the most used paternity test in the United States and receives very high marks in customer reviews. That being said, many of the HomeDNA receive much lower marks from customers. In part, this is due to the more complex nature of the tests. The HomeDNA Ancestry test does represent a much different genealogy test, compared to most other companies. The company boasts one of the largest and most distributed reference populations of any genetic testing company, which suggests they have very high accuracy. However, reviews from customers do not seem to match this diversity. While the company does a good job of protecting your genetic data, they are also one of the more expensive genetic testing companies to test with. Further, many users have complained about hidden lab fees which more than doubled the cost of their genetic test. If you choose to use HomeDNA, make sure the lab fees are covered in the sticker price of the test you are paying for.