The five best reasons you don’t want to miss Disrupt SF this September

TechCrunch’s Disrupt SF (Sept. 5-7) is our most ambitious event ever. And if we’re sure of one thing, it’s that people in the startup scene will extract more insights and inspiration from this Disrupt than any before. Here’s why…

  1. More, better programming. For the first time ever at Disrupt, we have two stages, plus two additional off-stage “Q&A” areas where Disrupt attendees can ask questions directly to speakers. Sequoia’s Doug Leone, Bumble’s Whitney Wolfe Herd, Sinovation’s Dr. Kai-Fu Lee,  23andMe’s Anne Wojcicki are just a few of the stellar interviews TechCrunch editors will conduct on stage. Disrupt will be live streamed, but only Disrupt pass holders will be able to catch sessions they missed via video-on-demand.
  2. Precision-guided networking. We spent years refining CrunchMatch, TechCrunch’s founder-investor matching and meeting system, and we’ve got it down to a science that has already produced thousands of meetings. Investors, use the CrunchMatch/Brella app to find the the founders and startup ideas you’re looking for, request a meeting, get the thumbs up, and boom you have a time and an assigned meeting table in the CrunchMatch meeting area.
  3. Startup Battlefield and Startup Alley. We’ve already selected the 20 startups that will compete in Startup Battlefield, and though the list is under wraps until the start of Disrupt, trust us it’s an amazing field of contestants – the fruits of a very deep, global recruitment effort. And Startup Alley will have more than 1,000 companies exhibiting across a dozen tracks – AI, mobility, blockchain, fintech – and each has Top Picks – the standouts that TechCrunch’s editors chose to exhibit free of charge. (Learn more about exhibiting in Startup Alley.)
  4. Comfortable digs. We built past Disrupts in pier warehouses, but this year we’re moving to the glistening, super comfortable Moscone West, where we have 3x the floorspace, which means spacious, sunny lounge areas where attendees can relax, charge gear and catch up with fellow attendees.
  5. The right pass for you. For the first time, Disrupt is offering passes with features and prices designed to suit different attendees, like founders, investors, all around innovators and more. Plus, passes come with access to discounted San Francisco hotel rooms. Right now, early birds prices apply, so do don’t wait. Get your pass now.

DNA analysis site that led to the Golden State Killer issues a privacy warning to users

As more details emerge about the arrest of the man suspected to be the Golden State Killer, it’s clear that one of the most infamous unsolved cases of all time was cracked using a popular free online genealogy database.

The site, known as GEDmatch, is a popular resource for people who have obtained their own DNA through readily available consumer testing services and want to fill in missing portions of their family tree to conduct further analyses. Compared to a polished service like 23andMe, GEDmatch is an open platform lacking the same privacy and legal restrictions that govern user data on more mainstream platforms.

To home in on their suspect, investigators used an intact DNA sample taken at the time of a 1980 Ventura County murder linked to the serial killer. The team uploaded data from the sample into GEDmatch and were able to identify distant relatives of the suspect — a critical breakthrough that soon led to the arrest of Joseph James DeAngelo, 72.

Given the high-stakes nature of DNA data and the popularity of voluntary online DNA databases, the case immediately raised a number of flags for data privacy advocates.

On Friday, GEDmatch confirmed on its landing page for logged-in users that law enforcement sifted through its DNA database in the case:

To correct a BIG misunderstanding, we do not show any person’s DNA on GEDmatch. We only show manipulations of data such as DNA [matches].

We understand that the GEDmatch database was used to help identify the Golden State Killer. Although we were not approached by law enforcement or anyone else about this case or about the DNA, it has always been GEDmatch’s policy to inform users that the database could be used for other uses, as set forth in the Site Policy

While the database was created for genealogical research, it is important that GEDmatch participants understand the possible uses of their DNA, including identification of relatives that have committed crimes or were victims of crimes.

If you are concerned about non-genealogical uses of your DNA, you should not upload your DNA to the database and/or you should remove DNA that has already been uploaded. To delete your registration contact gedmatch@gmail.com.

Though an initial misunderstanding raised suspicion that law enforcement used a major player in consumer genetic testing like 23andMe or Ancestry DNA in the Golden State Killer development, investigators instead leveraged another voluntary DNA database with no such hoops to jump through. Both 23andMe and Ancestry require law enforcement to create a legal request in the form of a search warrant or a court order before accessing any specific genetic or personal information.

23andMe explains its policies toward forensics in a special page dedicated to its relationship with law enforcement:

Use of the 23andMe Personal Genetic Service for casework and other criminal investigations falls outside the scope of our services intended use.

Therefore, it is a violation of our TOS for law enforcement officials to submit samples on behalf of a prisoner or someone in state custody who has been charged with a crime.

While the revelation that investigators have apprehended a suspect in the long-cold case is good news, the incident is reigniting justifiable concerns around consumer DNA testing.

In an interview with The New York Times, Paul Holes, the Contra Costa county investigator who helped crack the case, marveled at the power of GEDmatch. “I was blown away with what it could do,” Holes said.

Genetics testing startup Prenetics buys UK’s DNAFit to move into consumer services

Prenetics, a Hong Kong-based startup that offers genetic testing services for patients, is expanding outside of Asia and into the consumer space after it acquired London-based company DNAFit.

The deal — which a source told TechCrunch is worth $10 million — not only sees Prenetics enter new geographies, but also expand the scope of its services. Prenetics, which includes Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba among its backers, works directly with insurance firms and physicians who use its testing service for their customers and patients, but DNAFit goes straight to consumers themselves.

Five-year-old DNAFit sells a test that profiles an individual’s DNA to help them to figure out the fitness and nutrition setup that is best suited to them. DNAFit’s kits — which cost up to £249 ($350) and take 10 days for results — are sold online and via employee packages.

The company said it has sold its product to around 100,000 people with companies including LinkedIn, Talk Talk and Channel 4 among its corporate clients. High-profile backers include Olympic gold medal-winning British athlete Greg Rutherford, who said the results helped him make “clear, informed decisions” on his training regime.

Prenetics has been considering global expansion options for some time, and this acquisition gets its foot in the door in new markets while also tackling the consumer health market, too.

“We definitely plan on investing and growing our reach in Europe for the DNAFit business. In addition, Prenetics International will be focused on a B2B with insurers and for corporates,” Prenetics CEO Danny Yeung told TechCrunch via email.

“At the same time, DNAFit is a partner for [fitness company] Helix in the U.S., thus we plan on investing further on customer acquisition and growing our reach in the U.S.,” Yeung added. “We are extremely excited at the potential to bring DNA testing to a global market, making an impact on the lives of many.”

In another tie-up primarily targeted at the U.S., an offer for 23andMe customers allows them to use their results and pay $79 for DNAFit.

The deal sees DNAFit CEO Avi Lasarow becomes CEO of Prenetics International, a newly formed business unit, with Yeung CEO of parent company Prenetics Group. DNAFit itself will continue to run under its existing brand, both companies confirmed.

This marks the first piece of acquisition for Prenetics, which last year closed a $40 million Series B funding round led by Beyond Ventures and Alibaba Hong Kong Entrepreneurs Fund. Yeung told us at the time that a portion of that capital would be reserved for meaningful acquisitions as the startup aims to go beyond its early focus on China, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. At the time of that funding, which happened in October, Yeung said Prenetics had processed 200,000 DNA samples.

Prenetics started out as ‘Multigene’ in 2009 when it span out from Hong Kong’s City University. Yeung joined the firm as CEO in 2014, after leaving Groupon following its acquisition of his Hong Kong startup uBuyiBuy, and it has been in startup mode since then. Prenetics has raised over $52 million from investors which, aside from Alibaba, include 500 Startups, Venturra Capital and Chinese insurance giant Ping An.