The Genographic Project, launched in April 2005, is a five-year genetic anthropology study that aims to map historical human migration patterns by collecting and analyzing DNA samples from hundreds of thousands of people from around the world.
Field researchers at 10 regional centers around the world collect DNA samples from indigenous populations. The company also sells self-testing kits: for US$100 anyone in the world can order a self-testing kit from which a mouth scraping (buccal swab) is obtained, analyzed and the DNA information placed on an Internet accessible database. The genetic markers on mitochondrial DNA (HVR1) and Y-chromosomes (12 markers) are used to trace the customer's distant ancestry, and each customer is provided with their genetic history. As of April 2008, more than 250,000 people have bought a test kit.
The US$40m project is a privately-funded, nonprofit collaboration between the National Geographic Society, IBM and the Waitt Family Foundation. Part of the proceeds from the sale of self-testing kits support the Genographic Project's ongoing DNA collection, but the majority are ploughed into a Legacy Fund to be spent on cultural preservation projects nominated by indigenous communities.