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About Personal Genomics


Direct-to-consumer genetic testing is an emerging, highly publicized industry, despite considerable skepticism among experts. Advances in sequencing and genomics have revealed some correlations between particular genetic sequences and certain diseases, physical characteristics, and behaviors, though these relationships are not perfectly understood. Nevertheless, entrepreneurs have seized on these correlations to sell tests that purport to indicate whether the customer has an increased risk of a disease or other characteristic. Similarly, associations of genetic sequences with specific geographical locations have led to commercial “ancestry tests.”

Evaluating the claims of these companies is difficult, since their technologies are typically kept private and there is minimal oversight. Medical tests are supposed to be supervised by a physician, and testing laboratories need to be licensed. California has worked with Navigenics and 23andMe, two of the best-known companies, to ensure that they are operating legally in the state, but these Internet-based businesses raise regulatory concerns that cross state boundaries.

This industry may contribute to an over-emphasis on genes as determinants, possibly at the expense of environmental, economic and social considerations. A further concern is the possible use of DNA databases developed by private companies, whose business plans include profiting from the compiled data. Finally, although the companies insist that they will respect the privacy of their customers, there is no effective guarantee.



Genetic Testing and Tribal Identityby Rose EvelethThe AtlanticJanuary 26th, 2015Why many Native Americans have concerns about DNA kits like 23andme.
Obama to Request Research Funding for Treatments Tailored to Patients’ DNAby Robert PearThe New York TimesJanuary 24th, 2015President Obama will seek hundreds of millions of dollars for a new initiative to develop medical treatments tailored to genetic and other characteristics of individual patients.
Privacy is dead, Harvard professors tell Davos forumAgence France PresseJanuary 22nd, 2015"We are at the dawn of the age of genetic McCarthyism," said one Harvard researcher.
After Canada, UK, 23andMe Wants DNA Test Growth Abroadby Caroline Humer and Christina FarrReutersJanuary 15th, 2015The company, whose consumer-directed tests were barred by U.S. health regulators in 2013, said Western Europe is one focus for expansion.
Direct-to-Consumer Genetic Tests Should Come With a Health Warningby Jessica CussinsThe Pharmaceutical JournalJanuary 15th, 2015Genetic testing is appropriate in certain situations, but for healthy people as a way to predict disease, it is imprecise and comes with a number of risks.
Deals For Genetic Data Raise Issues of Privacy, Sharingby John Lauerman and Makiko KitamuraBloombergJanuary 14th, 2015Big Pharma is making deals to use the personal genetic data accumulated by direct-to-consumer genetic testing companies and others.
23andMe Turns Spit Into Dollars in Deal With Pfizerby Caroline ChenBloombergJanuary 12th, 2015The genetic-testing company backed by Google is sharing DNA data on about 650,000 individuals with Pfizer, the U.S.’s largest drugmaker.
23andMe’s New Formula: Patient Consent = $by Antonio RegaladoMIT Technology ReviewJanuary 6th, 2015How a consumer genetics company amassed a lucrative database of willing research participants.
Most Types of Cancer Largely Down to Bad Luck Rather Than Lifestyle or Genes The Guardian January 1st, 2015Random DNA mutations are largely responsible for two thirds of adult cancers but poor lifestyle can add to the "bad luck factor," according to a new study.
2014 in Biomedicine: Rewriting DNA, Decoding the Brain, and a GMO Paradoxby Antonio RegaladoMIT Technology ReviewDecember 30th, 2014From genetically modified foods to gene therapy, 2014 was a big year for rewriting biology.
Every Patient a Subject: When personalized medicine, genomic research, and privacy collideby Jennifer J. Kulynych and Hank GreelySlateDecember 30th, 2014Current norms permit a scientist who gets a sample of blood, tissue, or saliva to sequence and use that genome without the donor’s consent, or even without her knowledge.
Commercial DNA Testing May Cause Harm, Scientific Studies Show (If You Read Through to the Study Limitations at the End)by Cecile JanssensHuffington PostDecember 22nd, 2014After the FDA urged 23andMe to stop marketing its personal genome test in the US, the world's largest direct-to-consumer genetics company relaunched the test in Canada and the UK.
Top Biopolitical Times Posts of 2014by Jessica Cussins & Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesDecember 18th, 2014In 2014, CGS staffers and contributors posted 107 blogs in Biopolitical Times. These are twelve of our favorites.
Geneticists Begin Tests of an Internet for DNAby Antonio RegaladoMIT Technology ReviewDecember 17th, 2014Scientists are starting to open their DNA databases online, creating a network that could pave the way for gene analysis at a new scale.
Myriad Loses Appeals Court Bid to Block Breast Cancer Testsby Susan DeckerBloomberg BusinessweekDecember 17th, 2014Myriad Genetics can’t block competitors’ DNA tests to determine risk for breast and ovarian cancer after a US appeals court said three patents on the tests never should have been issued.
Prenatal Tests: Oversold and Misunderstoodby George Estreich, Biopolitical Times guest contributorDecember 16th, 2014A scathing investigative report on the accuracy of noninvasive prenatal testing is likely to shift the terms of this important conversation.
Taking your Genome to the Bankby Harry GlorikianGenetic Engineering & Biotechnology NewsDecember 15th, 2014Your genome has huge implications for you and your children. Institutions that store it should be regulated on how they store it, use it, and potentially share it.
Genetic Discrimination Means the Choice Between Life and Life Insuranceby Shimon Koffler Fogel and Bev Heim-MyersHuffington Post [Canada]December 12th, 2014Unfortunately, Canadians across the country currently face real as well as potential future discrimination based on their DNA.
Have New Prenatal Tests Been Dangerously Oversold?by Beth DaleyNew England Center for Investigative ReportingDecember 12th, 2014Many prenatal testing companies promise more than they can deliver. Two studies show that results can be a false alarm half of the time.
23andMe and the Future of Home DNA Testingby David McNameeMedical News TodayDecember 10th, 2014The Google-associated home DNA test company 23andMe will launch its kit in the UK. In the US, however, health results from 23andMe remain unavailable.
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