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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.



Taking race out of human geneticsby Michael Yudell, Dorothy Roberts, Rob DeSalle & Sarah TishkoffScienceFebruary 5th, 2016"We believe the use of biological concepts of race in human genetic research—so disputed and so mired in confusion—is problematic at best and harmful at worst. It is time for biologists to find a better way."
DNA Study of First Ancient African Genome Flawed, Researchers Reportby Carl ZimmerThe New York TimesFebruary 4th, 2016A head-turning study turned out to have a fundamental flaw that erased some of its most provocative conclusions.
How DNA and 'recreational genealogy' is making a case for reparations for slavery by Steven W. ThrasherThe GuardianFebruary 3rd, 2016Alondra Nelson, academic who was at the forefront of Afrofuturism, has a new book on how DNA can help descendants of slaves seeking compensation.
Debating UK approval of gene editing in human embryos
[MP3]
[With CGS's Marcy Darnovsky]February 1st, 2016The decision by Britain's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority marks the first time a country's national regulator has approved the technique.
We Need More Proof That Prenatal Gene Screens Are Beneficialby The EditorsScientific AmericanFebruary 1st, 2016Results from screening tests can be misleading. Industry and federal regulators are not doing enough to ensure that people get all the information they need.
Could DTC Genome Testing Exacerbate Research Inequities?by Christine Aicardi, Maria Damjanovicova, Lorenzo Del Savio, Federica Lucivero, Maru Mormina, Maartje Niezen & Barbara PrainsackThe Hastings Center ReportJanuary 20th, 2016The expansion of 23andMe’s database as a resource for genetic science may aggravate existing biases in disease research, leading to impoverished knowledge and exacerbated inequalities.
Take an online DNA test and you could be revealing far more than you realiseby Andelka Phillips The ConversationJanuary 12th, 2016Consumers shouldn't rely on the terms of personal genomics companies' contracts to protect their privacy or rights.
A Single Blood Test For All Cancers? Illumina, Bill Gates And Jeff Bezos Launch Startup To Make It Happen by Matthew HerperForbesJanuary 10th, 2016The new startup is called GRAIL, because such a test would be a holy grail for cancer doctors. It already has $100 million in funding.
China Embraces Precision Medicine on a Massive Scaleby David CyranoskiNature NewsJanuary 6th, 2016The country's strong genomics record bodes well, but a shortage of doctors could pose a hurdle.
Lab Pays $4M to Settle Doctor-Kickback Claimsby Bianca BrunoCourthouse News ServiceDecember 30th, 2015Federal investigators found Pathway violated the False Claims Act by offering physicians and medical groups reimbursements of up to $20 for each saliva kit they submitted for genetic testing.
Rulemaking Under Way for DNA Testing for Hawaiian Homelandsby  Jennifer Sinco KelleherABC NewsDecember 28th, 2015The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands has proposed rules that would allow the use of DNA evidence to prove ancestry.
Interest in Precision Medicine Grows, But Reimbursements Slow by Andrew JosephStat NewsDecember 23rd, 2015While some insurers are warming up to precision tests for cancer patients, others view them as investigatory expeditions that could find genetic variants not connected to the cancer.
Biopolitical News of 2015by Elliot Hosman, Pete Shanks & Marcy Darnovsky, Biopolitical TimesDecember 22nd, 2015We highlight 2015’s breaking news stories about human biotech developments.
Top Biopolitical Times Posts of 2015by Elliot Hosman, Pete Shanks & Marcy Darnovsky, Biopolitical TimesDecember 20th, 2015Here are a few of our favorites blogs of 2015.
It is Ridiculously Hard for Californians to get their DNA out of the FBI’s Genetic Databaseby Kashmir HillFusionDecember 18th, 2015More states should make DNA expungement automatic. People shouldn’t forfeit their genetic rights simply because of an arrest.
Clinical Genetics Has a Big Problem That's Affecting People's Livesby Ed YongThe AtlanticDecember 17th, 2015Many geneticists have tales where mistakes in the scientific literature have led to wrong — and sometimes harmful — diagnoses.
Genetic Testing May Be Coming to Your Officeby Rachel Emma SilvermanThe Wall Street JournalDecember 15th, 2015Health advocates raise concerns about privacy and the potential for illegal discrimination based on employees’ genetic information.
Personalized Medicine: A Faustian Bargain?by Eleonore Pauwels & Jim DratwaScientific AmericanDecember 10th, 2015Individually tailored therapies could be too expensive for many of those whose DNA donations go into creating the treatments.
F.D.A. Attention to Inaccurate Lab Tests Defers Hopes of “Precision Medicine”by Jessica Cussins, Biopolitical TimesDecember 9th, 2015If we lose trust in medical tests, the foundation of “precision medicine” could fall apart.
Florida Police Used a Smidgen of DNA to try to Fully Reconstruct an Alleged Criminal's Faceby Erin BrodwinBusiness InsiderDecember 2nd, 2015Parabon Nanolabs recently analyzed some remnants of DNA from a crime scene — not for fingerprints, but to create a digital likeness of the alleged criminal's face.
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