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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.



The White House Is Pushing Precision Medicine, but It Won’t Happen for Yearsby Mike OrcuttMIT Technology ReviewJuly 18th, 2016Costs are high and the science is not developed enough.
U.N. rights panel urges Kuwait to amend broad DNA testing lawby Stephanie NebehayReutersJuly 15th, 2016The compulsory DNA testing would be a significant violation of people's privacy.
Considering Gene Editingby Jef AkstThe ScientistJuly 12th, 2016A public meeting in Washington, DC continues an international committee investigation into precision DNA editing.
Sustainable Week: Fixing Our Broken Moral Compass[citing CGS’ Elliot Hosman]by Chuck SternBTRtoday July 8th, 2016Elliot Hosman critiques genetic determinism and encourages holding institutions accountable for their harmful actions.
President Obama’s 1-million-person health study kicks off with five recruitment centersby Jocelyn KaiserScience MagazineJuly 7th, 2016The early stages of the biobank are set in motion.
Medicine’s next stepby Barack ObamaThe Boston GlobeJuly 7th, 2016The Obama administration's precision medicine initiative will collect health data from at least a million people.
Sweden’s national DNA database could be released to private firmsby Tom MendelsohnARS TechnicaJuly 6th, 2016The country has a closely guarded registry of every citizen under the age of 43.
Growing Pains for Field of Epigenetics as Some Call for Overhaulby Carl ZimmerThe New York TimesJuly 1st, 2016Epigenetic marks have been thought to cause illness but that causal relationship has been greatly exaggerated.
A DNA Test Won’t Explain Elizabeth Warren’s Ancestryby Matt MillerSlateJune 29th, 2016Could more data that would improve the precision of ancestry tests? Probably not — in fact, it might get more complicated.
All about the base: New businesses eye the opportunities in managing genome dataThe EconomistJune 25th, 2016Currently, one firm - Illumina - controls 70% of a market worth $3.3 billion in 2015.
23andMe Sells Data for Drug Searchby Antonio RegaladoMIT Technology ReviewJune 21st, 201623andMe is monetizing DNA rather the way Facebook makes money from our "likes." What’s more, it gets its customers to pay for the privilege.
Should We Sequence the DNA of Every Cancer Patient?by Antonio RegaladoMIT Technology ReviewJune 14th, 2016A startup plans to give free genetic tests to 100,000 cancer patients in order to steer them to drug companies.
Myriad Genetics Refuses To Accept That People Have A Right To Access Their Own DNA Sequencesby Glyn MoodyTech DirtJune 13th, 2016Despite major court rulings against gene patents, Myriad still refuses to release information from its huge DNA database built over years of sequencing patients' BRCA genes.
Are DIY gene-testing kits a good idea? by Sharon BrennanThe Guardian June 13th, 2016Over-the-counter genetic tests leave some people knowing they may develop a serious illness but unable to do anything about it.
FDA chief aims to recruit 100 million Americans for precision medicine researchby Meghana KeshavanSTAT NewsJune 7th, 2016President Obama's Precision Medicine Initiative set a goal of recruiting a million volunteers to hand over their genetic and health data. The new head of FDA thinks that’s far too modest.
Biden unveils launch of major, open-access database to advance cancer researchby Laurie McGinleyThe Washington PostJune 6th, 2016The Vice President says the Genomic Data Commons will encourage collaboration among scientists, and will protect patient privacy.
On Cyborgs and Gene Editing: Lessons from Orphan Blackby Jessica CussinsBiopolitical Times guest contributorJune 1st, 2016The television show takes a cue from science fiction author Donna Haraway and engages the dangers of human genetic modification.
The disturbing thing that happens when you tell people they have different DNAby Ana SwansonWonkblog [The Washington Post]May 13th, 2016A new study suggests that emphasizing essential differences based on genetics can encourage aggression between groups and stir support for war.
Is academic achievement written into your DNA? It’s complicatedby Sharon BegleySTATMay 11th, 2016Behavioral genetics has long been notorious for claiming complex behaviors are the inevitable product of inherited genes. Altogether 74 genes explain less than .05% of differences in education levels.
Meet The Scientists Fighting For More Studies On Genes And Racial Differences In Healthby Peter AldhousBuzzFeedMay 11th, 2016Many question if medicine should seek genetic differences based on a social construct like race, diverting research away from environmental health impacts.
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