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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.



“Evolution right now is in the marketplace”by Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesSeptember 11th, 2014George Church is as outrageous as ever, while both transhumanist ideas and concerns about increasing inequality are receiving more attention.
Genetic Testing Brings Families Together, and Sometimes Tears Them Apartby Julia BelluzVoxSeptember 9th, 2014What 23andMe doesn't promote with its direct-to-consumer genetic tests is that the results can sometimes be painful, especially when users aren't looking for them in the first place.
Genetic Rights and Wrongsby EditorialNatureSeptember 9th, 2014Australia’s decision to uphold a patent on biological material is in danger of hampering the development of diagnostic tests.
'Smart Genes' Prove Elusiveby Ewen CallawayNatureSeptember 8th, 2014Scientists looking for the genes underlying intelligence are in for a slog. One of the largest, most rigorous genetic studies of human cognition has turned up utterly inconclusive findings.
US agency updates rules on sharing genomic databy Richard Van NoordenNature NewsSeptember 1st, 2014Changes clarify procedures for telling participants in NIH-funded studies how their data might be used.
When Big Data & Infants' Privacy Collideby  Alison DianaInformation WeekAugust 25th, 2014Technology allows researchers to discover newborns' genetic secrets, but the long-term repercussions worry some parents and privacy advocates.
Will Lowering The Price Of Genetic Testing Raise The Cost Of Medical Care?by Peter UbelForbesAugust 25th, 2014The days of affordable genomic sequencing are rapidly approaching. But will such testing bankrupt us?
Not-So-Personalized Medicine by Howard BrodyHooked: Ethics, Medicine, and PharmaAugust 23rd, 2014Personalized medicine may increasingly be useful in particular situations, but potential limits include false genetic determinism, high costs, and low predictive accuracy.
Microbiology: Microbiome Science Needs a Healthy Dose of Scepticismby William P. HanageNatureAugust 20th, 2014To guard against hype, those interpreting research on the body's microscopic communities should ask five questions.
Cancer and the Secrets of Your Genesby Theodora RossThe New York TimesAugust 16th, 2014The recent discovery that mutations in a gene called PALB2 greatly increase the risk of breast cancer is one of the biggest developments since the discovery in the ’90s of the role of mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.
Moving on from Nicholas Wade to Continuing Concerns about Scientific Racismby Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesAugust 14th, 2014Over 140 geneticists publicly criticized Nicholas Wade for distorting their work; but that is unlikely to stop such abuse permanently, and many issues still deserve airing.
Could a Genetic Test Predict the Risk for Suicide?by Antonio RegaladoMIT Technology ReviewAugust 13th, 2014Two groups of researchers are claiming they can use DNA tests to predict who will attempt suicide, and one startup company will begin offering a suicide risk test to doctors next month for patients taking antidepressants.
New CRG Report: Genetic Privacy and Non-Forensic BiobanksCouncil for Responsible GeneticsAugust 12th, 2014Do You Know Where Your DNA Is? Genetic Privacy and Non-Forensic Biobanks explores the various forms of biobanks in the US, their privacy limitations, the current state of regulation and the need for reform.
North Carolina and Genetics: From Sterilization to Research Subjectsby Victoria Massie, Biopolitical Times guest contributorAugust 7th, 2014In the twentieth century, North Carolina was one of dozens of states that targeted certain citizens for eugenic sterilization. Today, in a town outside Charlotte, biotech researchers are asking for urine and blood samples and offering $10 gift cards to WalMart in exchange.
Study Shows Third Gene as Indicator for Breast Cancerby Nicholas BakalarThe New York TimesAugust 6th, 2014Mutations in the gene raise risk in women by almost as much as mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2, the genes implicated in most inherited cases.
Data Yearning to Become Expensive Informationby Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesAugust 6th, 2014Big players have big “big data and genetics” plans afoot. Here’s the news from Genomics England, 23andMe, Google and Craig Venter.
Genetic Testing of Citizens: A Backdoor Into Total Population Surveillance by Governments, Companiesby Helen WallaceEpoch TimesAugust 3rd, 2014The new Chief Executive of England's National Health Service wants to make people’s personal genetic information the basis of their treatments.
Genome Project Will Transform Cancer Careby Ian SampleThe Guardian [UK]July 31st, 2014About 40,000 patients with cancer and rare diseases will have their genomes sequenced, which David Cameron claims will transform how serious diseases are diagnosed and treated.
Mining Your Genetic Data for Profit: The Dark Side of Biobankingby Amanda WilsonPacific StandardJuly 29th, 2014One woman’s story raises deep questions about the stark limits of current controls in the nascent biobanking industry.
In Search for Killer, DNA Sweep Exposes Intimate Family Secrets in Italyby Elisabetta PovoledoThe New York TimesJuly 26th, 2014In the absence of other evidence, investigators embarked on the country’s largest DNA dragnet, taking genetic samples from nearly 22,000 people.
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