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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.



Should Babies Have Their Genomes Sequenced?by Anna NowogrodzkiMIT Technology ReviewJuly 2nd, 2015The BabySeq project in Boston has begun collecting data to quantify the risks and benefits of DNA sequencing at birth.
Why the 'Devious Defecator' Case is a Landmark for US Genetic-Privacy Lawby Natasha GilbertNature NewsJune 25th, 2015A jury awarded $2.25 million to employees whose privacy was violated when their employer conducted genetic testing to determine fault in a job-site incident.
Can DNA Testing be Trusted? The Shockingly Imprecise Science of a Proven Courtroom Toolby Katie WorthFusionJune 24th, 2015Much DNA analysis involves interpretation. With interpretation comes subjectivity, and with subjectivity can come error.
Crime-Scene DNA Errors Spark Complex Legal Questionsby Megan CassidyThe Arizona RepublicJune 22nd, 2015Prosecutors and bureau officials say the mistakes will have a minimal effect on criminal cases, but the real impact of the revelations in courtrooms across the country remains to be seen.
6 Realities of Genomic Researchby Dan KoboldtMass GenomicsJune 19th, 2015I’m as excited about this as anyone (with the possible exception of Illumina). Even so, we should keep in mind that not everything is unicorns and rainbows when it comes to genomic research.
Ancient American Genome Rekindles Legal Rowby Ewen CallawayNature NewsJune 18th, 2015The finding seems likely to rekindle a legal dispute between Native American tribes and the researchers who want to keep studying the 8,500-year-old skeleton.
Down Syndrome Screening isn’t About Public Health. It’s About Eliminating a Group of People.by Renate LindemanWashington PostJune 16th, 2015Testing should be used to enhance health and human well-being instead of discriminating against people based on their genetic predisposition.
Taking Control of Our Genetic Information: Could it Go Too Far?by Karthika MuthukumaraswamyThe Huffington PostJune 16th, 2015Up until recently, those in the technology industry and those conducting genomic research would have been considered strange bedfellows. But big data - more specifically, big genomic data - is bringing the two groups together.
Prenatal DNA Test Patent Invalid, U.S. Appeals Court Saysby Andrew ChungReutersJune 12th, 2015The appeals court said the DNA's presence in the blood fell under the U.S. Supreme Court's rule against patenting natural phenomena.
Mosaic Mutations May Not Be Rareby Anna AzvolinskyThe ScientistJune 8th, 2015Somatic mosaicism may be responsible for a larger proportion of genomic variability within humans than previously thought.
Radio Review: The Business of Genetic Ancestryby Matthew ThomasBioNewsJune 8th, 2015The science is, as tends to happen, rather more nuanced than stories of descent from famous dead people.
Genetics in Medicine — Progress and Pitfallsby EditorialThe LancetJune 6th, 2015According to a White House statement, the "administration believes that altering the human germline for clinical purposes is a line that should not be crossed at this time."
Amazon, Google Race to Get Your DNA into the Cloudby Sharon Begley and Caroline HumerReutersJune 5th, 2015The tech giants are racing to store data on human DNA, seeking market share in a business that may be worth $1 billion a year by 2018.
When Your Genome Costs Less Than Your iPhone: The Beautiful, Terrifying Future of DNA Sequencingby Jo BestTech RepublicJune 5th, 2015Mapping the human genome was one of humanity's greatest scientific breakthroughs. Now, the cloud and supercomputing are taking it to new heights, bringing breathtaking and disturbing possibilities.
Rebooting the Human Genomeby Antonio RegaladoMIT Technology ReviewJune 3rd, 2015The official map of the human genome can’t tell you everything about your genes. Does graph theory offer a better way?
Bill to Protect the Genetic Profiles of Californians Clears Assembly Floor – AB 170by Christopher SimmonsCalifornia NewswireJune 3rd, 2015The legislation will will allow parents to make informed decisions about allowing their newborn’s blood sample to be retained and leased to researchers.
Company Aims to Democratize Genetic Tests at $475 a Popby Matthew HerperForbesJune 1st, 2015The idea behind Invitae is that the plummeting cost of sequencing DNA using machines made by San Diego’s Illumina will make it profitable to sell genetic tests at a flat rate.
‘Devious Defecator’ Case Tests Genetics Lawby Gina KolataThe New York TimesMay 29th, 2015The case is an effort by an employer to detect employee wrongdoing with genetic sleuthing.
FBI Notifies Crime Labs of Errors used in DNA Match Calculations Since 1999by Spencer S. HsuWashington PostMay 29th, 2015While the bureau has said it believes the errors are unlikely to result in dramatic changes that would affect cases, crime labs and lawyers said they want to know more about the problem.
Researchers Oppose Unvalidated Gene Panel Tests for Cancer Linksby Julie SteenhuysenReutersMay 27th, 2015Genetic tests that look for multiple hereditary genes suspected of being linked to breast cancer should not be offered until they are proven to be valid and useful in clinical practice.
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