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23andMe for dogs?!

How a $700m startup plans to help dogs live longer

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The world’s oldest dog was a 30-year-old Australian Cattle Dog named Bluey.

But for most dogs, the average life span is just 10-15 years, depending on the breed. And Embark Veterinary -- a Boston-based genetics startup now valued at $700m -- wants to change that.

Per Bloomberg, the company recently raised $75m to use DNA testing to avoid preventable illnesses and increase dog life spans by 3 years by 2030.

Brothers Adam and Ryan Boyko co-founded Embark…

… with Blue Apron founder Matt Salzberg and geneticist Dr. Spencer Wells in 2015.

Adam Boyko is an associate professor of biomedical sciences at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, which acts as Embark’s official research partner.

Here’s how Embark works:

  • Customers buy a Breed ID kit starting at $129, swab their dog’s cheek, and send it back.
  • Embark tests the dog’s DNA for 350+ breeds, including wolves, coyotes, and dingos. Its advanced kit also tests for 200+ health issues and physical traits.
  • In 2-4 weeks, the customer receives a full report, including any dog relatives in Embark’s database -- like 23andMe for pups.
  • Owners can use this info to learn about where their dog came from and make healthy choices for their pet (though experts and Embark say DNA testing isn’t a substitute for the vet).

Embark’s research includes village dogs

The Boykos spent years studying village dogs -- dogs that live outside and breed freely -- all over the world to better understand the history and traits of domestic dogs.

  • For example, a high genetic diversity among village dogs in Central Asia showed they descended from the OG domesticated dogs.

It was out of this research that the idea for Embark grew, and its testing includes DNA from village dogs, too.

At the very least, customers will learn how we got from wolves to this.

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