Spencer Wells

“When [one guy we tested] got these results he literally started crying. He said, “Now I know why I feel connected to these different groups. It really gives me a sense of belonging.’”

Spencer Wells, population geneticist and former explorer in residence for National Geographic, wants to create an app for people to discover their genetic makeup. Hear Wells’ thoughts on DNA sequencing, his Emmy award, and the future of consumer genomics.

Biography:

Wells is a population geneticist and former explorer in residence for National Geographic. He directed the Genographic Project, which tells the story and tracks the movement of humans since their origin. His other titles include adjunct professor at UT Austin, author, and entrepreneur: using his expertise to help and found consumer genomic companies.

Quote Preview:

“We’re so diverse as a species, different skin colors and hair types, and shapes of our noses and all these things. How did those differences arise? How do they connect us in some way?” (10:00)

“My latest company is called Insitome. We’re involved in trying to build what will become the app store for consumer genomics. The idea is that very soon everybody is going to have their DNA sequenced and it’s going to live up in a vault, but we don’t know everything about what all that material means yet."

“I remember we tested a guy who was originally from Colombia a few years ago but he was adopted by a Dutch family living in New York and had grown up in New York with a Dutch name. He knew essentially nothing about his background except for Colombia so we tested him. He had ancestry, of course from Native Americans in South America, but also European ancestry from several places, Spain and Italy, he had a Y Chromosome that was all likelihood from an Ashkenazi Jewish person, he had sub-Saharan African ancestry, and when he got these results he literally started crying. He said, ‘Now I know why I feel connected to these different groups it really gives me a sense of belonging.’”