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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.



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.
Commercialisation and the Moral Obligation to Create 'Designer' Babiesby John GallowayBioNewsDecember 8th, 2014Julian Savulescu made the case for a new 'eugenics', without ever using the word, at Progress Educational Trust's 2014 annual conference.
CRISPR Opportunities … For What? And For Whom? by Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesDecember 4th, 2014Money and deals are flowing into the companies founded on CRISPR technology, which promises to enable the precise editing of genomes.
Controversial DNA Test Comes to UK[Quotes CGS's Marcy Darnovsky]by Michelle Roberts and Paul RinconBBCDecember 2nd, 2014The UK's Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency says the 23andMe spit test can be used with caution. But critics say it may not be accurate enough to base health decisions on.
Whose Genome is it Anyway? Ethics and Whole Genome Sequencing Before Birthby Dr. Ainsley NewsonBioNewsDecember 1st, 2014A geneticist's decision to obtain the whole genome sequence of his partner's fetus in utero suggests why we should look before we leap into this kind of prenatal testing.
The Vagina Bio-Hack That Wasn't: How Two 'Startup Bros' Twisted the 'Sweet Peach' Missionby Jessica CussinsThe Huffington PostNovember 26th, 2014Two male biotech CEOs announced they had created a bio-hack to make women's vaginas smell like peaches. It turns out they did not even create 'Sweet Peach,' and they got it all wrong.
The Vagina Bio-Hack That Wasn’t: How Two “Startup Bros” Twisted and Took Credit for a Young Woman’s Companyby Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesNovember 25th, 2014When news broke last week that two male CEOs wanted to make women’s vaginas smell like peaches, there was a well-deserved backlash. Now, it turns out the project they announced wasn’t even theirs, and they got it all wrong.
Massive Man Versus Mouse Genome Project Publishes Resultsby Katie HoweBioNewsNovember 24th, 2014A comprehensive international study has revealed striking similarities as well as some significant differences in the regulation of mouse and human genomes.
The Problematic Hunt for a ‘Gay Gene’by Samantha AllenThe Daily BeastNovember 20th, 2014Another week, another study declaring the hunt for the ‘gay gene’ over. Why are we so hung up on a biological answer for homosexuality?
Bill to Have All Russians Fingerprinted and DNA Profiled Submitted to ParliamentRussia TodayNovember 19th, 2014MPs from the populist nationalist party LDPR have prepared and drafted a motion requiring universal fingerprinting and DNA profiling of all Russian citizens for reasons of security.
Discrimination Based on Genetics Could Soon be Illegal, and it’s Right on Timeby William Wolfe-WylieCanada.comNovember 18th, 2014As personalized genetic testing hits the mainstream, what companies do with that information is of growing concern.
Science For Sale: Diet-Based DNA Testing Veers into Marketingby Kelly CroweCBC NewsNovember 17th, 2014Are scientists looking for answers they can sell, not necessarily for personal gain, but because that's the only way they can get any funding at all?
Breaking from our Eugenic Pastby Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesNovember 13th, 2014As the victims of North Carolina's eugenics program finally receive compensation, we should not celebrate "the new eugenics" as some have argued, but learn carefully from this history.
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