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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.



Open-Source DNAby Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesOctober 31st, 2014Who are the players to watch in the growing trend to “free” our genetic data, and what does it mean to participate?
How Should the U.S. Regulate Genetic Testing?by Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesOctober 16th, 2014The question, addressed at a conference at Stanford’s Center for Law and the Biosciences, is both complicated and critical.
Genetic Testing for Alzheimer’s — Without Revealing the Resultsby Shirley S. WangThe Wall Street JournalOctober 13th, 2014Doctors are devising new ways to shield patients from information about their odds for developing inherited disease as genetic testing becomes more common.
The Genetics Epidemic: The Revolution in DNA Science -- And What To Do About Itby Jamie F. MetzlForeign AffairsOctober 12th, 2014The coming revolution in genetic engineering will be exciting to some, frightening to others, and challenging for all. If not adequately addressed, it will also likely lead to major conflict both within societies and globally.
How to Cope With a Positive Genetic Test Resultby Kristine CraneUS NewsOctober 10th, 2014There is help out there for people with a positive genetic test result, as well as something of a protocol for them to follow.
Controversial Genetic Self-Testing Kits Coming to Canadaby André PicardThe Globe and MailOctober 2nd, 2014Though U.S. FDA forbids sales of direct-to-consumer genetic tests for health prediction, regulators in Ottawa are working with California-based 23andMe.
With Consumer Genetic Testing, Buyer Bewareby EditorialThe Boston GlobeSeptember 30th, 2014The flood of data that comes with direct-to-consumer genetic testing raises a host of ethical questions that neither testing firms nor their customers may anticipate.
Kaiser Permanente's Genetic Database Is Boon to Medical Researchby Emily AnthesBloomberg BusinessweekSeptember 25th, 2014The health network has accumulated genetic data on more than 210,000 members.
The Stupidity of the 'Smart Gene'by Jessica CussinsThe Huffington PostSeptember 25th, 2014Now that “one of the largest, most rigorous genetic studies of human cognition” has effectively turned up "nothing," can we finally put the notion of “smart genes” behind us?
Women Better Informed About Prenatal Genetic Testing Choose Fewer TestsNews MedicalSeptember 25th, 2014A clinical trial led by UC San Francisco has found that when pregnant women are educated about their choices on prenatal genetic testing, the number of tests actually drops.
Genetic Testing for All Women? Not a Solution to the Breast Cancer Epidemicby  Karuna JaggarHuffington PostSeptember 24th, 2014The recommendation that all women over age 30 be screened for BRCA mutations fails to recognize the significant limitations and harms of mass genetic testing in the current health care environment.
Nobel Laureate: Big Data and Full-Genome Analysis not all they’re Cracked up to beby Mohit Kumar JollyThe ConversationSeptember 23rd, 2014Walter Gilbert explains why whole genome sequencing is not accurate for medical diagnosis.
Can a DNA Test Reveal if You’re an Indigenous Australian?by David WeisbrotThe AgeSeptember 23rd, 2014An Australian Senator recently created controversy by claiming in her first speech to Parliament that going back six generations, she was related to a renowned Tasmanian Aboriginal leader.
Finding Risks, Not Answers, in Gene Testsby Denis Grady and Andrew PollackThe New York TimesSeptember 22nd, 2014Tests to find mutations that predispose people to types of cancer have outpaced the understanding of what they mean.
Shame and Scandal in the 23andMe Familyby Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesSeptember 17th, 2014In response to its problems with the FDA and news about family traumas triggered by its tests' "close relatives" option, 23andMe is hiring new executives, including a Chief Privacy Officer.
The Stupidity of the “Smart Gene”by Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesSeptember 17th, 2014Now that “one of the largest, most rigorous genetic studies of human cognition” has effectively turned up "nothing," can we finally put the notion of “smart genes” behind us?
“Evolution right now is in the marketplace”by Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesSeptember 11th, 2014George Church is as outrageous as ever, while both transhumanist ideas and concerns about increasing inequality are receiving more attention.
Genetic Testing Brings Families Together, and Sometimes Tears Them Apartby Julia BelluzVoxSeptember 9th, 2014What 23andMe doesn't promote with its direct-to-consumer genetic tests is that the results can sometimes be painful, especially when users aren't looking for them in the first place.
Genetic Rights and Wrongsby EditorialNatureSeptember 9th, 2014Australia’s decision to uphold a patent on biological material is in danger of hampering the development of diagnostic tests.
'Smart Genes' Prove Elusiveby Ewen CallawayNatureSeptember 8th, 2014Scientists looking for the genes underlying intelligence are in for a slog. One of the largest, most rigorous genetic studies of human cognition has turned up utterly inconclusive findings.
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