Gas station without pumps

2018 December 26

Dante Labs is probably not a scam

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 15:51
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As readers may remember from Spit kit sent, I spent $500 in March 2018 in an attempt to get my genome sequenced through Dante Labs. I worried at the time that their price was too low for current sequencing capabilities, but I thought that I’d give them a try.

I am now convinced that Dante Labs is indeed a scam. (Update: 2019 March 15—I’m an no longer convinced one way or the other.  They have, finally, sent me the promised data.)

On 2018 August 31, they sent me an e-mail:

Your Raw Data are ready!

Dear Customer, 

We’re excited to let you know that we completed the sequencing of your sample. 

Over a month later, I asked when I would get the data they claimed to have.  On 2018 Oct 9, they sent me an e-mail:

Dear Kevin,
we apologize for this delay.
Your hard disk is among the next few to be shipped.
Again, we are sorry for this inconvenience.
Best regards,
Dante Labs
It is now four months since they claimed to have data for me, and almost three months since they claimed that mine was “among the next few to be shipped”.
It is clear now that they are incapable of delivering the whole genome sequence that they promised.  I suspect that they are doing a variant of a Ponzi scheme, where they use the money of new customers to pay for sequencing of a few select early customers, so that they don’t have all their customers complaining about non-delivery.
For my part, I’ve given up on ever expecting anything from them—now I have to decide if it is worthwhile to report them to the Better Business Bureau and appropriate district attorneys.  I can, at least, warn all my readers not to do business with them.
I’ll also have to look for a different, more reputable business to get my whole-genome sequencing done.  While I’m looking, I wonder whether it would be worth the $200 for a SNP panel from 23andme—that would not answer the most interesting question for me (the genetic cause of our family’s inherited bradycardia), but it might provide some data of interest.
If anyone has suggestions for whole-genome sequencing companies I should check, please let me know.

UPDATE: 2019 March 8.  Dante Labs informed me today that my data “has been ready for a while” and there is indeed a VCF report for me on their web site (with an 2018 August 11 date on it, though I don’t believe it was there then).   They had promised me the raw data, which they never sent.

I will check the VCF file to see whether it is consistent with 23andme data for me, and see whether Promethease can process the data (there is mention on the Promethease website that they have had trouble with Dante Labs data, though no reasons are given).  I have also ordered another whole-genome sequencing from, which I will also check for consistency.

If the VCF file for Dante Labs turns out to be correct and usable, I will remove the accusation of “scam” and just say that their customer service is terrible.

UPDATE: 2019 Mar 15.  The hard disk with the FASTQ and and alignment files (the raw data Dante Labs promised me last year) arrived yesterday.  After I catch up with my grading (only 51 more hours to go—10 hours more grading on Lab 5, then 41 hours of grading on Lab 6, which comes in on Monday), I’ll be consulting with the experts at UCSC about the best way to re-analyze the data.

Promethease had no trouble processing the VCF file from Dante Labs, but their analysis assumed that any variant not mentioned vas not tested, while most were sequenced but homozygous for the reference allele.  There needs to be a better format for communicating genotypes!

The preliminary results from the Promethease analysis are compatible with the 23andme data, but I’ll need to write a Python program to compare the 23andme genotype with the VCF file to see how much they differ.  This may be a bit tricky, as I’ll probably first have to create a 23andme reference, so that I can guess what the genotype is where the VCF has no variant reported or remove from the comparison any places where my 23andme genotype matches the reference.  Again, this will have to wait until my grading is done.

Right now, I am cautiously optimistic that Dante Labs is not a scam—though their delays in delivering data are not real encouraging.   If they really deliver whole-genome data at scale at the prices they are currently charging, I’ll be impressed.  If they are only delivering to a few selected customers, then not so impressed.

If the data checks out ok, I will have some of my relatives send samples to Dante Labs for sequencing—the prices is so much lower that it is worth some risk.

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