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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 disturbing thing that happens when you tell people they have different DNAby Ana SwansonWonkblog [The Washington Post]May 13th, 2016A new study suggests 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, 2016Altogether 74 genes explain less than .05% of differences in education levels; behavioral genetics has long been notorious for claiming complex behaviors are the inevitable product of inherited genes.
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.
Gene Therapy’s First Out-and-Out Cure Is Hereby Antonio RegaladoMIT Technology ReviewMay 6th, 2016A genetic therapy treatment for severe combined immune deficiency, also known as "bubble boy" disease, is now pending approval in Europe.
The World’s Most Expensive Medicine Is a Bustby Antonio RegaladoMIT Technology ReviewMay 5th, 2016The first gene therapy approved in the Western world costs $1 million and has been used just once.
Hacking CRISPR: Patents, Gene Therapy & Embryosby Elliot HosmanMay 5th, 2016As gene editing experiments on human embryos spread, piecemeal hacks of CRISPR are outpacing discussions of the futures it might enable.
Google's DeepMind shouldn't suck up our NHS records in secretby Randeep RameshThe Guardian [US]May 4th, 2016The revelation that 1.6 million patients’ records are being used by the company’s artificial intelligence arm rings alarm bells.
Why this lab-grown human embryo has reignited an old ethical debate[citing CGS' Marcy Darnovsky]by Patrick MonahanScience/AAASMay 4th, 2016Two teams report growing human embryos just up to 14 days, prompting some scientists and bioethicists to contend that it’s time to revisit the so-called 14-day rule.
Cultural Influences Reflected in Divergent US vs UK Human Embryo Research Policies[citing CGS' Marcy Darnovsky]by Eli Y. AdashiThe JAMA ForumMay 3rd, 2016Reactions to CRISPR gene editing experiments depend upon a country's existing laws and regulation.
The gene editor CRISPR won’t fully fix sick people anytime soon. Here’s whyby Jocelyn KaiserScience/AAASMay 3rd, 2016After more than two decades of ups and downs, veterans of the gene therapy field are wary of raising expectations about CRISPR for treating diseases.
With CRISPR in Humans On the Horizon, Will the Public Back Intellia?by Alex LashXconomyApril 29th, 2016Intellia and Editas both lack what so many biotech investors crave: data from human clinical trials. As they race to the clinic, it's hard to tell if either company will pay off.
A Single $249 Test Analyzes 30 Cancer Genes. But Do You Need It?by Sarah ZhangWIREDApril 28th, 2016Color Genomics is marketing gene tests for 30 cancers, but doctors caution that our ability to sequence DNA has far outpaced our ability to understand what the results mean.
A DNA Sequencer in Every Pocketby Ed YongThe AtlanticApril 28th, 2016Oxford Nanopore Technologies, which severed financial ties with DNA sequencing monolith Illumina in 2013, is "desperately thinking of ways of bringing them down.” These include a USB-powered sequencer called the MinION.
Meet The New CEO Of The $22 Billion Genomics Company You've Never Heard Ofby Christine FarrFast CompanyApril 27th, 2016Gene-sequencing giant Illumina is expanding to direct-to-consumer tests and perhaps brand partnerships, says new CEO Francis deSouza.
Researchers push for personalized tumour vaccinesby Heidi LedfordNature NewsApril 22nd, 2016Enthusiasm comes amid concerns about "irrational exuberance" over the rapid shift toward the personalized approach.
AstraZeneca launches project to sequence 2 million genomesby Heidi LedfordNature NewsApril 22nd, 2016One of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies is partnering with the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and Craig Venter's Human Longevity to look for rare genetic differences between individuals.
We Still Haven’t Found a Fountain of Youth in Our DNAby Brian AlexanderMIT Technology ReviewApril 21st, 2016The Cypher Genomics project has been attempting to identify genetic variants that contribute to longevity, but so far there's no smoking gun.
Scientists unveil the ‘most clever CRISPR gadget’ so farby Sharon BegleySTATApril 20th, 2016A new "base editing" method attempts to switch out individual letters of DNA, but its usefulness and precision are unclear.
Kuwait Becomes First Country to Collect DNA Samples From All Citizens and Visitors: Reportby Seung LeeNewsweekApril 19th, 2016Kuwait will use mobile centers to collect samples from citizens, and take cheek swabs at airports on all visitors. Anyone faking DNA samples faces up to seven years in prison.
More People Seek Genetic Testing, But There Aren't Enough Counselorsby Todd BookmanNPRApril 18th, 2016The field of precision medicine is facing a bottleneck: "Who will actually interpret and provide those results to patients?"
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