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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.



Review of Blame: A Novelby Abby Lippman, Biopolitical Times guest contributorNovember 28th, 2016Blame is especially important for those unfamiliar with the range of ethical, social, legal, and political issues raised by applications of what is learned in a lab. While a work of fiction, it is definitely not science-fiction
Do Your Family Members Have a Right to Your Genetic Code?by Emily MullinMIT Technology ReviewNovember 22nd, 2016When a woman gets her genome sequenced, questions about privacy arise for her identical twin sister.
The Field of Synthetic Biology Runs on Speculative Fictionby Jason KoeblerVICE MotherboardNovember 18th, 2016As technology advances and draws us closer to unknown dimensions that may parallel sci-fi worlds, conversations must be inclusive of voices beyond science and industry.
DNA-editing breakthrough could fix 'broken genes' in the brain, delay ageing and cure incurable diseasesby Ian JohnstonThe Independent [UK]November 16th, 2016The technique allows DNA changes that have not previously been possible, modifying the genes of non-dividing cells in a living animal.
CRISPR gene-editing tested in a person for the first timeby David CyranoskiNature NewsNovember 15th, 2016A clinical trial in China used cells edited with CRISPR-Cas9 to treat a patient with lung cancer. Spectators anticipate a biomedical duel with US.
San Diego Scientists Help Develop New Twist On In Vitro Fertilizationby David WagnerKPBSNovember 10th, 2016The patent holder for a related "3-person IVF" technique reports new work with "polar body genome transfer." Some experts say none of these approaches have been proven safe.
Why We Need to Rethink Ethnicity-Based Genetic Testingby Shivani NazarethUS News & World ReportNovember 7th, 2016The problem with genetic tests that assume people exist in neat race and ethnicity categories is that it simply is not an accurate reflection of their ancestry.
Sorry, that DNA test doesn't make you indigenousby The 180 with Jim BrownCBC RadioNovember 6th, 2016Belonging to a particular community can mean sharing beliefs, cultural practice, even official citizenship. But it's not decided by genetic material.
Where Traditional DNA Testing Fails, Algorithms Take Overby Lauren KirchnerProPublicaNovember 4th, 2016Various "probabilistic genotyping" programs undermine due process as defense attorneys, judges, and jurors can't access their proprietary inner workings.
America’s ambivalence about race is seeping into scienceby Taunya EnglishThe Pulse, NewsworksNovember 4th, 2016"Race has been used to oppress people, ... to kill people. Does science really want to be using a concept that is so historically loaded?"
Genetic test costs taxpayers $500 million a year, with little to show for itby Casey RossSTAT NewsNovember 2nd, 2016A new study shows that genetic testing can waste half a billion dollars a year, and lead to unclear results, anxiety, and more testing.
"Personalized nutrition" isn’t going to solve our diet problemsby Julia BelluzVoxNovember 2nd, 2016The trend of looking at DNA to "revolutionize" health lacks scientific backing and threatens to obscure environmental influences.
Genetics startup Genos wants to pay you for your DNA databy Sarah BuhrTech CrunchNovember 1st, 2016Company plans to pay participants for full genome sequencing, starting with exomes, to create a disease variant map.
Genetic testing fumbles, revealing 'dark side' of precision medicineby Sharon BegleySTATOctober 31st, 2016Inconsistency in DNA interpretation and in the algorithms used among databases, unregulated by the FDA, contributed to a fatal outcome for a 5-year-old boy.
Colin Kaepernick’s 'I Know My Rights Camp' cements his status as a cultural superhero in the black communityby Shaun KingNew York Daily News October 29th, 2016NFL player Colin Kaepernick distributed DNA ancestry tests at a "Know My Rights" youth camp in Oakland, citing their reconciliation value.
Fruity with a hint of double helix: A startup claims to tailor wine to your DNAby Rebecca RobbinsSTAT NewsOctober 27th, 2016Sequencing giant Illumina's new app store Helix is leading the charge of linking DNA analysis to lifestyle marketing.
23andMe Has Abandoned The Genetic Testing Tech Its Competition Is Banking Onby Stephanie M. LeeBuzzFeedOctober 26th, 2016Other companies are starting to sell next-generation sequencing-based tests to the public, but 23andMe has let go the team that had been working on its project.
There Is No Leadership Geneby Tracy StaedterSeekerOctober 25th, 2016As genetic testing becomes mainstream, some consider using it to screen job applicants. Besides being unlawful discrimination, the science is highly unreliable.
The controversial DNA search that helped nab the 'Grim Sleeper' is winning over skepticsby Marisa GerberLos Angeles TimesOctober 25th, 2016Use of familial DNA to solve crimes is growing in popularity, raising concerns of 4th Amendment unreasonable search and seizure violations.
Mail-Order Tests Check Cells for Signs of Early Agingby Melinda BeckWall Street JournalOctober 24th, 2016Personal genetic testing companies claim telomere length can signal disease risk, but top scientists say it all amounts to high-tech palm reading.
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