by Ditsa Keren

Unravel Your Genetic Bloodline With Choice DNA Laboratory

Unravel Your Genetic Bloodline With Choice DNA Laboratory

Choice DNA Laboratory offers paternal and relationship-based DNA testing across the US. Their app, Face It DNA, utilizes face recognition technology to significantly reduce the cost of DNA matching. I sat down for a talk with Founder Lawrence Reese to discuss the vision and essence of his work and his perspective on current and future trends.

Please describe the story behind the company: What sparked the idea, and how has it evolved so far?

My name is Lawrence Reese. I’m the Director of Operations for Choice DNA Laboratory. I’ve been with this company for 16 years. My education is focused in nursing. My career experience has a concentration in the Steel Manufacturing Industry & Coal Energy Production. I got a little bored with that and figured out some algorithms and marketing strategies for DNA paternity testing and became fascinated with the opportunities it holds.

I tested a few family members and came to find out that one of them was not a blood relative. They were adopted. The family kept that secret to protect that family member from feeling isolated. That’s what intrigued me to go into this industry. I printed a few business cards and distributed them around town. Not long after, someone found one at a local grocery store and gave me a call. I had no idea anyone would ever call, but she did, and she wanted a DNA test. 

I had no clue what to do. I printed out those cards with absolutely no business plan. I ended up calling what was the largest genetic laboratory in the US at the time. Before the end of our conversation, we were already negotiating a contract. It turned out the numbers I presented were not far-fetched enough for him to throw me off the stairs, so-to-speak. In hindsight, they were very reasonable, conservative numbers. He wrote me up a contract, and I used his laboratory to do our first tests.

16 years later, we’ve now helped thousands of families. It’s been a great journey with pretty much that same inspiration that sparked it from the beginning, “helping families”. I planted the seed of our availability as a laboratory and the rest fell in place over time. That’s a high-level overview of how the company started. 

We’re now contracted with two of the largest laboratories in the US. They handle the manpower of our DNA testing analyses while we handle the marketing and corporate development side of things. We’re able to provide results to families throughout all 50 US states and in other countries as well.

What are typical reasons to use your service?

Typically, people come to us because of convenience, our compassionate approach, and our vast knowledge of genetic testing. The relationships we’ve fostered with hundreds of hospitals and local clinics make it really easy for patients to call us and get connected with a local Ph.D., nurse, or collector within a few miles of their home. On top of that, our fees are generally much lower than our competitors. We’re conveniently located, reasonably priced, and we’re able to actually explain how DNA testing works from the outset to the conclusion of the case.

Ancestry testing seems to be the big topic these days, but 10 years ago, that wasn’t the case. Forensics testing was the big topic, largely inspired by CSI television shows that introduced forensics to the general public in a very captivating manner.

That being said, most of our client base is focused on answering very specific relationship and paternity-related questions such as: Who is my father? Is this my child? Is this my blood sibling? Our tests are able to answer these questions in a very short period of time. 

How does your Facial DNA Test work?

Facial recognition is a rapidly growing technology. For example, it allows you to unlock your mobile phone by scanning and tracing the unique blueprint of your facial features. That same concept can be utilized for Facial DNA Matching. We’ve hooked up with a company called Face IT DNA Technology LLC in order to offer this service to our clients. 

Face Matching allows us to compare one person’s face to another, see how much they match or differentiate based on their facial features, and get a percentage or score of whether or not they are related. If you get over 50%, it suggests that the two people are related. A score lower than 50% tends to suggest that they are not. As of today, it has a really high accuracy rate.

A lot of our client base is now following suit with facial recognition testing. That’s been an interesting conversation in itself. The app, Face DNA Testing is now approaching 200,000 downloads on the Google Play Store and gaining popularity daily. 

How reliable is Face DNA Recognition, and what are the advantages as opposed to a swab test?

When you take a mouth swab or a blood test, you’re looking at roughly 99% accuracy. DNA Face Matching is a new piece of technology and has a higher margin of error. Studies show that it’s correct roughly 92% of the time. 8% of the time, it can be incorrect.

For this reason, you can’t use them for legal purposes, but it’s awesome to take a scan and use that technology to look at two faces and see how they match based on their facial genetic makeup; a cleft chin, dimples, a widow’s peak, and other things that you can inherit from a paternal line.

Do you utilize your users’ data and if so, what is your purpose?

Clients often ask us what we do with their data. The most important thing to our lab is getting the DNA results to the family. We’re not interested in hanging on to client genetic profiles in efforts to find ways to use them in the future. There are several laboratories out there that utilize user data successfully, but as for us, it hasn’t been our focal point. 

Which trends and technologies do you find to be particularly exciting these days?

There’s a lot going in the world of PCR. I remember years ago, it used to take weeks, sometimes even months, to get DNA testing questions answered. With advancing technology, especially with PCR systems, we can get DNA results within 24 hours. That’s incredible considering some of the feats scientists have had to face over the years. That’s always been one of my favorites: the ability to get results quickly.

How do you envision the future of your industry?

Everything these days is being animated. The future is always an exciting topic. It’s what makes science intriguing. It’s futuristic and ever-evolving. 

The technology behind genetic testing continues to grow. Look at what scientists can do now with ancestry studies. In some cases, they can narrow the results down to a pinpointed location showing you where you’re from. It’s growing at lightning speed and the accuracy is absolutely unimaginable. Thinking of where we could possibly be in five years is mind-blowing. Even some of the things that we have on the horizon at Choice DNA Laboratory are quite revolutionary. It’s going to be exciting.

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About Author
Ditsa Keren
Ditsa Keren

Ditsa Keren is a technology blogger and entrepreneur with a strong passion for biology, ecology and the environment. In recent years, Ditsa has been specializing in technical and scientific writing, covering topics like biotechnology, algae cultivation, nutrition, and women's health.

Ditsa Keren is a technology blogger and entrepreneur with a strong passion for biology, ecology and the environment. In recent years, Ditsa has been specializing in technical and scientific writing, covering topics like biotechnology, algae cultivation, nutrition, and women's health.