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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.



U.S. Introduces New DNA Standard for Ensuring Accuracy of Genetic Testsby Robert PearThe New York TimesMay 14th, 2015The National Institute of Standards and Technology has developed “reference materials” that could be used by laboratories to determine whether their machines and software were properly analyzing a person’s genome.
Microbiomes Raise Privacy Concernsby Ewen CallawayNature NewsMay 11th, 2015Call it a ‘gut print’. The collective DNA of the microbes that colonize a human body can uniquely identify someone, researchers have found, raising privacy issues.
The Blurred Lines of Genetic Data: Practicality, Pleasure and Policingby Jessica CussinsThe Huffington PostMay 8th, 2015Amidst a rumor that Apple may encourage iPhone owners to participate in DNA testing and share their genetic data, shocking news from Idaho is a reminder that we don’t always control what happens with our data, and won’t always like it.
The Blurred Lines of Genetic Data: Practicality, Pleasure and Policingby Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesMay 7th, 2015Amidst a rumor that Apple may encourage iPhone owners to participate in DNA testing and share their genetic data, shocking news from Ancestry.com and the Idaho police is a reminder that we don’t always control what happens with our data, and won’t always like it.
Apple Has Plans for Your DNAby Antonio RegaladoMIT Technology ReviewMay 5th, 2015Will the iPhone become a new tool in genetic studies?
Myriad Genetics Fights Off Threats From Rivalsby Joseph WalkerWall Street JournalMay 3rd, 2015Nearly two years after the Supreme Court struck down gene patents, the DNA testing firm fights to sustain a business model.
How Private DNA Data Led Idaho Cops on a Wild Goose Chase and Linked an Innocent Man to a 20-year-old Murder Caseby Jennifer LynchElectronic Frontier FoundationMay 1st, 2015This case highlights the extreme threats posed to privacy and civil liberties by familial DNA searches and by private, unregulated DNA databases.
National Accreditation Board Suspends All DNA Testing at D.C. Crime Labby Keith L. AlexanderWashington PostApril 27th, 2015The audit ordered “at a minimum” the revalidation of test procedures, new interpretation guidelines for DNA mixture cases, additional training and competency testing of staff.
Why Whole-Genome Testing Hurts More Than it Helpsby H. Gilbert Welch and Wylie BurkeLos Angeles TimesApril 27th, 2015For the medical-industrial complex, whole-genome tests may pay off, but for most people they would be absurd.
New Genetic Tests for Breast Cancer Hold Promiseby Andrew PollackThe New York TimesApril 21st, 2015A Silicon Valley start-up is threatening to upend genetic screening for breast and ovarian cancer by offering a test on a sample of saliva that is so inexpensive, most women could get it.
Personalizing Cancer Treatment With Genetic Tests Can Be Trickyby Richard HarrisNational Public RadioApril 15th, 2015Genetic tests also spot a lot of ambiguous information, and that can sometimes lead people into clinical trials that are wrong for them.
Colorado Bill Would Add DNA Testing for Eight Misdemeanor Convictionsby Noelle PhillipsThe Denver PostApril 14th, 2015"The notion the government gets to keep your genetic code in perpetuity is frightening."
A NASA Scientist Is Behind the 'My DNA Was Planted' Viral Craigslist Adby Kari PaulMotherboardApril 14th, 2015The goal was to get people thinking about whether criminals will someday be able to genetically engineer themselves out of a guilty verdict.
DNA Testing Is a Slippery Slopeby Russell SaundersThe Daily BeastApril 14th, 2015A media baron set off a firestorm on Twitter after recommending blood tests for “everything available.”
California Unveils 'Precision-Medicine' Projectby Erika Check HaydenNature NewsApril 14th, 2015The $3-million state initiative will coordinate with a national effort to promote individualized patient treatment.
Reality Check: Is Sex Crime Genetic?by Emily UnderwoodScience MagazineApril 9th, 2015A new study suggesting that genes play a major role in sex crimes has skeptics concerned.
Baby Genes to be Mapped at Birth in Medical Firstby Helen ThomsonNew ScientistApril 8th, 2015Could genome sequencing of newborns give valuable insight or do harm? That's the question US doctors are trying to answer in a pioneering trial starting this month.
Ancestry.Com Is Quietly Transforming Itself Into A Medical Research Juggernautby Daniela HernandezThe Huffington PostApril 6th, 2015Since it has been collecting ancestral data for decades, the $1.6 billion company knows health information not just about its users, but about their great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents.
Fetal DNA Tests Prove Highly Accurate but Experts Warn of Exceptionsby Julie SteenhuysenReutersApril 1st, 2015The newer tests are not regulated by the FDA, and companies are heavily promoting their performance in ways that may mislead patients, critics say.
A New Facebook App Wants To Test Your DNAby Virginia HughesBuzzFeed NewsMarch 31st, 2015Some people are growing wary of Facebook’s reach into seemingly every aspect of life, and all of the privacy and security concerns that come with that.
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