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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.



US Regulators Try to Tame 'Wild West' of DNA Testingby Erika Check HaydenNature NewsFebruary 20th, 2015Experts, regulators mull how to foster technologies without posing undue risk to patients.
FDA Clearance of DTC Genetic Test Gets Mixed Reviewsby Ricki LewisMedscsape February 20th, 2015The US Food and Drug Administration authorized 23andMe to market a direct-to-consumer carrier test for Bloom syndrome.
Reading Our Genome is Tough, But Epigenetics is Giving Us Valuable Cluesby Marcus WooWiredFebruary 19th, 2015If the genome is a book, then the epigenome is like the post-it notes, dog-ears, and highlights that help you make sense of a particularly dense text.
Internet of DNAby Antonio RegaladoMIT Technology ReviewFebruary 19th, 2015A global network of millions of genomes could be medicine’s next great advance, but important challenges remain.
Precision Medicine Has Imprecise Ethics by Craig KlugmanBioethics.netFebruary 18th, 2015Will precision medicine increase or decrease health disparities? Will having a certain genetic subtype of a disease increase or decrease stigmatization of the disease?
Genes Tell Only Part of the Storyby Abigail ZugerThe New York TimesFebruary 16th, 2015Genes are seldom the whole story behind illness, and are possibly not even the sternest of the medical fates that control us.
Whole-Genome Sequencing Now Possible for IVFGenetic Engineering & Biotechnology NewsFebruary 12th, 2015Scientists have developed a whole-genome sequencing method that uses cell biopsies from in vitro embryos to scan for potentially detrimental mutations.
Big Data and Privacy Rightsby Xavier SymonsBioEdgeFebruary 7th, 2015A review of the British Government’s "care.data" scheme has found that the existing privacy framework needs major revision.
The Problem with Precision Medicineby Cynthia GraberThe New YorkerFebruary 5th, 2015As scientists continue to draw connections between DNA data and health outcomes, the problem of interpretability grows.
Precision Medicine in Contextby Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesFebruary 5th, 2015President Obama's proposal for a Precision Medicine Initiative – which echoes President Nixon's "War on Cancer" – should start a conversation that includes lots of questions.
Big Precision Medicine Plan Raises Patient Privacy Concernsby Dina Fine MaronScientific AmericanFebruary 3rd, 2015Tailor-made medicine for patients around the U.S. is getting a boost from a $215-million presidential initiative, but the undertaking is fraught with concerns.
23andMe Only Heightens the Need for Genetic Counsellingby Dr Joyce HarperBioNewsFebruary 2nd, 2015At no point is there any involvement from a physician or genetic counsellor to explain what is being tested for or the consequences of the results.
Millions of DNA Samples Stored in Warehouse Worry Privacy Advocatesby Patrick McGreevyLos Angeles TimesFebruary 1st, 2015The biobank holds blood taken with the prick of a heel from almost every baby born in California for the last three decades.
Obama Thinks "Precision Medicine" Will Make Us Healthier. Experts are Skeptical.by Julia BelluzVoxJanuary 30th, 2015Getting targeted therapies and treatments into the hands of most Americans is much further afield than Obama might like to admit.
U.S. Proposes Effort to Analyze DNA from 1 Million Peopleby Toni Clarke and Sharon BegleyReutersJanuary 30th, 2015At the heart of the "precision medicine" initiative is the creation of a pool of people who would be studied to learn how genetic variants affect health and disease.
Obama Precision Medicine Plan Would Create Huge U.S. Genetic Biobankby Jocelyn KaiserScience InsiderJanuary 29th, 2015The proposed precision medicine initiative would center on a huge new biobank containing medical records and genetic information for perhaps a million Americans.
‘Moonshot’ Medicine Will Let Us Downby Michael J. JoynerThe New York TimesJanuary 29th, 2015President Obama's new budget is expected to include hundreds of millions of dollars for so-called precision medicine. Unfortunately, this is unlikely to make most of us healthier.
Myriad Genetics Ending Patent Dispute on Breast Cancer Risk Testingby Andrew PollackThe New York TimesJanuary 27th, 2015The company has settled or is in the process of settling patent-infringement lawsuits it filed against other companies that now offer such testing.
Genetic Testing and Tribal Identityby Rose EvelethThe AtlanticJanuary 26th, 2015The question of genetic testing, and particularly genetic testing to determine ancestral origins, is controversial for many Native Americans.
Obama to Request Research Funding for Treatments Tailored to Patients’ DNAby Robert PearThe New York TimesJanuary 24th, 2015President Obama will seek hundreds of millions of dollars for a new initiative to develop medical treatments tailored to genetic and other characteristics of individual patients.
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