1000 genotypings, and 3 years of openSNP!

In 2011, someone asked me how many genotypes I personally would expect users to upload, and if I remember correctly, I said 30. That was quite the understatement: Just a few days ago on the 30th of May, openSNP received its 1000th genotyping!

On this happy occasion we thank the users and participants for their trust in the project and their continued support and interest.

Since 2011, people have used openSNP in research, art, and their own projects, have written additional software to interact with openSNP’s API, written great comments, and much more. We have published a paper on openSNP a few months ago, which is for most of us the first publication in our careers.

openSNP has come a long way, here are the first three commits from June 2011, with Basti’s oldest on the bottom:


That was nearly exactly 3 years ago! Since then we’ve (among other things) learned to write proper commit messages.

So what does the future hold for openSNP?

  1. A better server: We recently received a grant from Bayer HealthCare so we can move to bigger servers, so that the site should load and react much faster. Maybe we can even start hosting bigger datasets?
  2. Pre-given phenotypings: One of the biggest problems with openSNP’s data is the high amount of variation in phenotypes entered by users: researchers who want to work with the data still have some manual cleaning to do. We’ve prepared a set of phenotypes for which users can only choose their variation; this should greatly improve the speed with which researchers can start working on the data.
  3. Faster parsing: we’ve replaced the Ruby-based genotyping parser by a 99% complete implementation written in Go. So far, it’s much much faster, but still only marginally tested.
  4. A variety of smaller things: A stats-page, bug-fixes, genosets, etc. – have a look at the Issues page here.

We thank you for your continued support and interest, and here’s to many more years! If you know of any other project that uses openSNP data, feel free to post it in the comments!

Crowdfunding DTC Microbiomics & Proteomics

We hope that you all had nice holidays and made it safely into the new year. You may already be tired of all the donation campaigns which are frequent in this season and don’t worry, we won’t ask you for money for openSNP. We do however have some ideas on what you could spent your Christmas bonus: Crowdfunding startups and products became en vogue in 2012 and the whole Quantified Self and Personal Genomics movement fortunately has jumped on the bandwagon as well. Right now there are some projects looking for funding on Indiegogo. For example uBiome, which wants to provide insights into the bacteria living inside you, and Talking20, which wants to do for your proteins what personal genotyping companies did for your genome.
We feel that those projects are picking up where the genotyping and genome/exome sequencing efforts of other companies are currently ending and thus might be of interest for you as well (I mean: Who wouldn’t like to get his microbiome sequenced and have regular metabolite tests? Right?). And of course, we hope that we can include sharing capabilities for willing participants of those projects in future versions of openSNP. We have reached out both projects to get some more information about their ideas and future plans of possible collaboriations. Before we let the projects speak for themselves just a standard disclaimer: We’re not involved with any of those projects and are not making any money out of this. We just like the idea of people having more biological data on themselves.


Hello, openSNP Community! I’m a PhD student at Oxford, and together with my co-founders from the University of California, San Francisco, I am honored to work with uBiome, the world’s first citizen science effort to map the human microbiome.

The project is funded through crowdfunding at www.indiegogo.com/ubiome. Each gut kit is $69; gut and mouth kits are $139 for both (+$12 shipping outside the United States for each). We plan to send out the kits in May 2012 and return the results on our website once we get the kits back from everyone. Our kits are available in 196 countries. Data will be freely available to those who sign up, and available to the global research community on an “opt-in” basis. In the long run, we hope to integrate with 23andme and other types of genetic and metagenetic data.

So far, our project has garnered over $55,000 in crowdfunding from over 480 participants in less than a month. Participants from twenty different countries spanning four continents have pledged their support, including the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, as well as India, Singapore, and Uruguay. We’ve been featured so far in Wired, Venture Beat, the Los Angeles Times, Scientific American, BoingBoing, and syndicated in 160 newspapers around the world through the Associate Press.

What is the microbiome, you ask?

The microbiome are the bacteria that live on and within us. It sounds kind of funny, but all of us are actually covered in helpful germs (or co-evolved symbionts if you prefer).

Like the rainforest, the healthy human microbiome is a balanced ecosystem. The correct balance of microbes serves to keep potential pathogens in check and regulate the immune system. Microbes also perform essential functions such as digesting food and synthesizing vitamins. Some research also suggests that microbial activity influences mammalian mood and behavior. Studies have linked microbiome imbalance to autism, depression, and anxiety, as well as many gut disorders, eczema, and chronic sinusitis. Infant health even appears to benefit from a proper seeding of microbes at birth, with health consequences ranging into adolescence. For some future-thinking commentary on the microbiome, check out this interesting editorial in Science by Leroy Hood.

uBiome brings this cutting edge technology directly to consumers for the first time through citizen science.

We provide participants with a catalogue of their own microbes, detailing the microbial composition of the body and explaining what is known about each genera of microbe. In addition, uBiome compares participants’ microbiomes with scientific studies on the role of the microbiome in health, diet and lifestyle. uBiome also provides personal analysis tools and data viewers so that users can anonymously compare their own data with crowd data as well as with the latest scientific research.

From a small sample on a cotton swab, your uBiome test helps you to learn more about your body, including:

  • Diet: Certain gut enterotypes are strongly associated with long-term diets, particularly protein and animal fat (Bacteroides) versus carbohydrates (Prevotella). Maybe you are not sticking to your diet as much as you think.
  • Diabetes: Does your gut microflora correlate with people who have diabetes? If you have other symptoms as well, you might want to talk with your doctor.
  • Sinusitis: Is your nasal microbiome associated with the profile of chronic sinusitis? Some studies have found that multiple, phylogenetically distinct lactic acid bacteria were depleted concomitant with an increase in the relative abundance of a single species, Corynebacterium tuberculostearicum.
  • Alcohol consumption: Do you drink a lot of alcohol? If your gut profile clusters with heavy drinkers, you might want to consider cutting back on the booze.
  • Bowel conditions: Do you have Irritable Bowel Disorder (or any other bowel condition)? You may want to purchase our specially designed kit and survey for bowel disorders.

Please join us and help us spread the word about this project. The more people that contribute, the more we can all learn about our health, and contribute to the advance of SCIENCE!


Talking20 is a simple blood test that can be ordered online and received in the mail. It’s quick and easy! Results are delivered online in secure profile, and can even be viewed from a smartphone. We are ready to gather data and design experiments that will help us help you learn more about what’s going on inside your body!

Get involved with the Talking20 project by ordering a basic kit and sending it in. Tracking your biological data will help you view changes taking place inside your body, and it will help us design new tests that are useful to everyone. Want to know what eating a burger does to your cholesterol? Interested in tracking stress reduction over the course of a month-long yoga course? We are and we need your help. Your body is talking to you, let’s find out what it’s saying!

This is how Talking20 is measuring your metabolites:

Talking20 is taking proven technologies: (1) dried blood spot collection (done for every newborn in developed countries) and (2) mass spectrometry (used in labs everywhere), and innovatively bringing them together. We believe that actionable information about our bodies are available by looking at our proteins and metabolites. That’s where we need to be looking. Danny Hillis of Applied Minds does a amazing job of explaining this concept in his talk at TEDMED.

Mass spectrometry is a very sensitive method for counting molecules from blood, and is actually used as the ‘gold standard’ to set up hospital tests. With a bit of extra work, mass spec can also be used to measure every other molecule too. Without visiting a lab or even leaving your home, you can now just put a few drops of your blood on a card and mail it to us at room temperature from anywhere in the world! We can then do the analysis and tell you your results wherever you are!

Talking20’s commitment is to make this testing as economical as possible, so you can do it whenever you want. Heather has personally tracked her hormones and cholesterol every few days to learn more about her own life events and diet. Talking20 is also on the verge of completing a cortisol test so we can start watching stress levels in response to different types of exercise!

At Talking20, we want to make many different tests available, so you can start finding out about what is happening inside you. We are offering five of these ‘biomarkers’, to measure your cholesterol, vitamin D, estradiol (estrogen), progesterone, and testosterone. This would normally require you go into the doctor, then into a lab to get a blood draw, and then back to the doctor, and would likely cost $300-500! We believe we can do better!

If you want to support them you should visit their Indiegogo page.

Now included: FitBit-data (plus minor design changes)

Hi there,

Basti has been hard at work linking the Fitbit-API to openSNP – if you’re a customer of Fitbit, you can now connect your Fitbit-data with your openSNP-profile to give researchers around the world an even better picture of how your genes interact with your health.

The new Fitbit-phenotype-overview – still kind of empty!

Why this data?

There are several SNPs associated with an increased risk of developing obesity, SNPedia has a very good overview here. For example, some variations are involved in how early your body starts to store fat, or how strong your appetite is.

Carrying these variants, however, does not mean that there’s nothing you can do about your weight – there are some studies showing that regular exercise helps alleviate these effects (see here, for example). This is where the Fitbit-data comes in – it gives researchers a detailed overview of your movement-patterns, the status of your body-weight and your sleep patterns. Using this data scientists can then perform association-studies by comparing weight and activity-data to known and unknown SNPs linked to obesity. You can also link your sleep-data (if you are tracking it) – this enables research into the genetics behind some sleep disorders.

Another reason why it’s great to collect data through a technical device instead through surveys it that all data which comes through the Fitbit-API is normalized into standardized units. This makes it much easier to compare the data, as you don’t have to convert between units (metric & imperial system) or have to work around spelling mistakes etc., while it also allows to circumvent the cognitive biases we all have while answering questions about ourselves. And of course it’s also is more convenient for you, because you don’t have to update your BMI and activity-pages manually, as we automatically will get your latest Fitbit-data. This means there is one profile less you have to worry about!

As a bonus, the level of detail in this data is a level researchers usually can’t reach due to time and financial constraints.

Basti’s page

How to link your data

Linking a Fitbit-account to openSNP is a matter of just a few clicks – once you’re logged in, click on My Account, then on Settings and under the Fitbit-tab you’ll be able to go through the procedure. Alternatively, here’s the direct link to the page. Of course, you can specify which data is going to be shared with openSNP – we don’t automatically take all of it, because that wouldn’t be very nice of us. After you’ve approved that you want to link Fitbit and openSNP you will get redirected to a page where you can choose which categories should be shared and mirrored on openSNP. And yes, you have to submit the form which selects which categories you want to share, until you’ve done so we will not grab any data.

Note that: a) the data at openSNP is automatically updated with new data from Fitbit along with all the data you have put into Fitbit so far and b) you can always unlink your Fitbit account from openSNP, this also deletes your Fitbit-data on our end, in the settings.

This is where we hid the bodies the link

For researchers

If you’re interested in this data, it’s from now on available in all data-dumps in CSV-format for easy parsing (available on the genotypes-page, or directly here). Please note that the CSV lists 0 (that is zero) for missing data-points.

Slight re-design

We’ve also slightly updated the design of openSNP to the newest Bootstrap-version. You shouldn’t have been affected by that (except in the way that things now look a bit nicer. For example take a look at the SNP-pages which now show pie charts for the allele & genotype-frequencies) , but if you find anything wrong, please tell us in the comments or at info@opensnp.org!

Thanks for reading and have a wonderful weekend,

the openSNP-team

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New API methods & Vagrant images

Additions to the API

We can announce some minor additions to our API:

  1. You can now grab annotations for a SNP by using http://opensnp.org/snps/json/annotation/$SNP_NAME.json. For example http://opensnp.org/snps/json/annotation/rs7903146.json returns all Mendeley-, PLOS- and SNPedia-annotations we have for Rs7903146.
  2. You can now get additional information for phenotypes. You can get a list of all phenotypes by visiting http://opensnp.org/phenotypes.json. You can use this call to find out the IDs of the phenotypes you are interested in. 
  3. And you can get all phenotypic variation and the description for a given phenotype by visiting http://opensnp.org/phenotypes/json/variations/$PHENOTYPE_ID.json. For example http://opensnp.org/phenotypes/json/variations/12.json gives you the variation for each user at the phenotype with the ID 12.

We also added some more extensive documentation of the API to our Wiki at GitHub. The wiki also lists the attributes each call will return.

Vagrant Image

We compiled two Vagrant-images which should make running the openSNP source and development much easier. Installing Ruby, Redis, PostgreSQL, Java, and all the right versions of the Ruby gems can be painful and often takes a significant amount of time – so we created the Vagrant-Image, which is the whole server-runtime with all gems pre-installed inside a virtual environment for easy development.  This Railscast gives you a nice idea of how to install and use Vagrant.

Our Vagrant-images (downloadable as 32 bit version and 64 bit version) are based on Lucid64 and Lucid32 and come with the Ruby version manager rbenv, Ruby 1.9.2 including bundler, Sun’s Java and Postgres 8.4 (the development-tables are already migrated) pre-installed. Getting the development-server running should now be really easy:

  1. Install the image using vagrant box add opensnp http://opensnp.org/opensnp32.box
  2. Initialize the image inside your openSNP-folder using vagrant init opensnp
  3. Run vagrant up to start your image and afterwards connect to it using vagrant ssh
  4. Go to the mounted directory using cd /vagrant
  5. Run bundle to see if all gems are working as expected and try bundle exec rails s to start the web-server

You can watch this Railscast to learn more about how you can put Vagrant to use and download our Vagrant-image as 32bit version or 64bit version. One caveat: You need to delete the .rvmrc file if you want to run vagrant from inside the directory which has your copy of the openSNP-source code. The file can be found in the root-folder of the openSNP-source code. If you keep the file your copy of RVM might lead to some problems with vagrant. Let us know if you encounter any problems or need help.

Recent Talks – re:publica & SIGINT

In the last post Philipp already told you that we’ve been giving talks on Personal Genetics and a possible future of Biomedicine over the last months. In May Fabian and I visited the re:publica in Berlin and the SIGINT in Cologne. Now the recordings of those conferences are available. So if you couldn’t make it to Berlin and/or Cologne you can watch it those talks.

Unfortunately the talk on The Future of Genetics which we gave on the re:publica wasn’t recorded, but you can at read and download our slides of the talk. And on the same conference I was also part of a (German, sorry rest of the world!) panel discussion called “Die totale Selbstkontrolle als Wunsch und nicht Bedrohung” (total self-control as wish instead as thread) which mainly focussed on the Quantified Self-movement, but also covered a bit of personal genetics.

On the SIGINT we talked about Power to the Patient and how modern technology along with the web, think of personal health records, could be put to use to change how medicine is done. You can again download the slides or as this talk was also recorded watch the video.

Thanks to all of you who joined the conferences, listened to our talks and – most importantly – took their time to discuss the topics with us.

Milestone reached: 200 genotypings!

We’re happy to announce that openSNP has reached the magnificent number of 200 open genotypings! It’s great that you guys support open science so much, we didn’t think to reach this number so fast. openSNP has been growing constantly, here are some interesting stats:

Here’s the amount of data downloaded from openSNP.org every day over the last 6 months, with the days on the x-axis and the traffic in megabytes on the y-axis:


As you can see, the amount of data jumps around wildly – that’s because the data-dump with all genotypings is fairly large, and there are lots of days in there where no-one downloaded any genotypings, and some days where a lot of people download data – nothing much in between!

And for fun, here’s the amount of daily attacks on the server (usually automated scripts that look for open administrator-interfaces)

What happened there in May? Two articles were released on openSNP and Basti and Fabian held two talks (at the SIGINT and at the re:publica), so that increased positive and negative attention.

Some things that are coming soon:

- picture-uploads for phenotypes

It would be great if users could upload pictures of their phenotypes and variations, for example, the shape of their heads or the form and color of their eyes. We’re currently working on this, might take a while longer.

- more secure backend

In light of the recent attacks on linkedin, last.fm and others we’ve switched the password-storing system from salted SHA512 to salted bcrypt-hashes. If you’re interested in how that works, check out this article, Keeping passwords safe by staying up to date.
We’re currently testing how well the implementation works but it’s looking good, coming very soon. You’ll probably not notice any changes.

- a couple more talks

We’ve submitted some more applications to talk at different conferences but haven’t heard back from any. If we go and hold a talk somewhere, we’ll link to the videos!

Thank you for your interest & help and time, we couldn’t have done it without you!

The openSNP-team

Support for 23andMe-exome-data

In the last weeks some people contacted us because they wanted to upload their exome-data to openSNP. While we started out with a focus on SNP-data (mainly because it’s much more abundant) providing support for exome-data has been on our ToDo-list for a couple of month now, so we did some work on it. Today we start with support for the data which is generated by 23andMe through their Exome-service.

So if you’ve got your exome sequenced through 23andMe you can now upload it to openSNP as well. Unfortunately there are some drawbacks right now:

  1. We only support upload for the VCF (Variant Call Format) and not for the BAM-file which contains the raw reads as well.
  2. We won’t parse all of your data. We will scan your exome for those SNPs which are already in the openSNP-dataset, but we won’t add any new ones to the web interface and won’t make other variants available for browsing on openSNP in the near future.

There are two main reasons for this limited feature-set:

  1. openSNP is our hobby project and we run with limited financial and computational resources. Basically right now we don’t have the computational power and storage to store and parse complete exome-BAM-files to deliver any benefit.
  2. Mining literature for known SNPs is easy, because a unique identifier exists for each SNP. This identifier is used in most publications and is seldom used for other purposes than referencing the SNPs. For Copy Number Variations etc. this isn’t that easy and we still haven’t had a good idea to get around this.

Nevertheless: If you’ve got your exome sequenced through 23andMe you can now upload your VCF-file. We will search for all known SNPs and make your genotypes available on the web-frontend of openSNP. And of course the complete VCF-file will be downloadable for anyone who is interested in it. Have fun uploading your data. And as always: Let us know if something doesn’t work as expected or if you have any further ideas for us.

A petition on Open Access

We are strong supporters of the open-science movement and are happy to see that there is a new petition aimed at the Obama administration. The goal of this new petition is to make Open Access mandatory for all publications funded by tax-money.

While one of the aims of openSNP is to provide an Open Data platform it would be impossible to provide this service without the great benefits of Open Access, of which we make extensive use when we link to external information and papers. Would all research still be hidden behind paywalls we could not provide you with information on any SNPs. If Open Access would be mandatory we could provide you with even more information and literature!

This is the full text of the petition:


Require free, timely access over the Internet to journal articles arising from taxpayer-funded research.

We believe in the power of the Internet to foster innovation, research, and education. Requiring the published results of taxpayer-funded research to be posted on the Internet in human and machine readable form would provide access to patients and caregivers, students and their teachers, researchers, entrepreneurs, and other taxpayers who paid for the research. Expanding access would speed the research process and increase the return on our investment in scientific research.

The highly successful Public Access Policy of the National Institutes of Health proves that this can be done without disrupting the research process, and we urge President Obama to act now to implement open access policies for all federal agencies that fund scientific research.

The best thing is that you don’t have to be a US citizen to sign the petition. Just register on the petition platform and give your signature. In total 25,000 signatures are required before June 19 2012. If this limit is reached the petition will be placed in the Executive Office of the President for review.

The campaign behind it, access2research, is driven by many open access advocates, including Michael Carroll, Heather Joseph, Mike Rossner, and John Wilbanks.

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Replies to all genotyping-applications have been sent

It took us some time to read through all your great applications and it was a hard task to decide which applications we should consider for the free genotypings. After heavy discussions and bargaining we had two things: a list of successful applications and a short list of applicants that would get a 23andme-kit if there would be a DNADay-discount with 23andMe this year.

By now all applicants should have received an email from us which either brings the good or bad news. If you haven’t received an email you should take a look into your spam-folder (look for a message from info@opensnp.org). A handful of applicants either had some typo in their address or have closed down the account they used to register for the application. If you haven’t heard from us at all this might be the reason.  In this case, please contact us again and tell us your old or original e-mail-address.

For everybody on the shortlist: Unfortunately 23andMe doesn’t offer discounts this year, so we can’t consider your applications. We’re really sorry about this as we really would like to genotype all of you. Drop us an email if you want to get notified about a potential follow up free-genotyping. We’re still trying to get some funding for this.

Please give us your postal address if your application was successful. We need it to order you a spit kit.

Thanks again to everybody who participated.

the openSNP-team

Update on the free genotypings and new features on openSNP

The free genotypings
This night the deadline for free genotypings passed, and we are overwhelmed by the amount of responses. In less than 24 hours after the first blog post over 200 people sent us their applications, and in total over 450 people applied. For us the real work now begins, and we will do our best to go through all the applications, select the most interesting, and then contact every applicant. 
Entering Phenotypes
We also used the past weeks to implement some more features into openSNP. This time we focused on end-users entering their data into openSNP, especially on entering phenotypic variations. Entering a lot of phenotypes was a bit cumbersome and took too much time. Now, registered users will find a subtle change to their dashboard: The tab which shows phenotypes you haven’t yet provided now features a small button that allows you to easily fill in your information.
 A modal window (like the one in the screenshot above) will appear and you can choose your variation from the list of already known answers, or you can choose to add a new one. This should make entering data a lot faster. 
Phenotype Recommendations
We also added a recommendation engine for phenotypes, which can be found on individual phenotype pages. An additional tab will show you which phenotypes have most frequently also been entered by users who have entered variations on the page you are looking at. 
Additionally, you can use this system to get recommendations about similar phenotypes and even variations. If you enter your variation for a phenotype through the old phenotype view you will get a similar picture to this: 
Bild The top row shows you up to three phenotypes and the variation which is often entered by users who have provided similar variations to you. So lets’s say you’ve just entered that your Body Mass Index is above 30, the system might point out that people with this variation frequently have entered that they have a high blood pressure. 
The lower row shows you up to three phenotypes which are often entered by users who have entered any information about similar phenotypes as you, irrespective of the variation provided. For example, if you’re interested in visible traits and have just provided information about your eye colour you will see that people who are interested into this also provide information about their hair and skin colour. 
Given the rising numbers of different phenotypes which you can enter in openSNP, this should help you to find those that are of interest of you. You might have noticed that you wont get those recommendations if you are using the new quick-entry-feature on your dashboard. Our reasoning for this: Using the dashboard you can enter a large amount of variation in rapid succession. Here, displaying recommendations after each phenotype entered would slow you down. But if you like to “browse” and don’t want to rapidly enter large amounts of data, you might benefit from having some recommendations what might also be of interest for you. 
How do you feel about this? Would you like to see an option to get those recommendations also after entering variation using the dashboard? 

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