Thursday, September 13, 2007

Genetics is about to get personal

Snagged this interesting little blurb from Mashable:

23andMe definitely looks to be an interesting project. Once you send in your DNA (from your saliva in most cases–just use a Q-tip), Illumina will process it and spit back all kinds of information. What Illumina does is make DNA chips, or SNPs (pronounced snips) when lets the company tell of the hundreds of DNA variations for each sample provided. This information can be used to help find ancestral information, or for medical purposes.

Your 23andMe account is kept private. 23andMe isn’t quite ready for public access, but Illumina has indicated that the service will be free. And what’s cool is that Jeff Flately, chief exec of Illumina, has saved slides of his own genome on his iPhone, meaning there’s a lot that you’ll be able to do with your DNA very soon.

You can read the rest of the post here

You know what scares me about this... the fact that they are doing this for free. There are lots of DNA services out there now with varying pricetags, but to turn a swab of your cheek cells into data costs money.

There's only one way this can be free.

In spite of my paranoid conspiracy theory, you know I signed up for the announcement list, right?

You can bet your lack of medical history I did.

Here are people much more educated and less silly than I discussing 23andMe. This is very, very interesting:

The Genetic Genealogist

I'll be back later... I'm off to watch the Illumina webcast on this.

11 complaints from ingrates:

TheGeneticGenealogist September 13, 2007 at 7:40 PM  

"You know what scares me about this... the fact that they are doing this for free. "

Don't worry, they aren't doing it for free. If you look at the original article, the testing was only offered for free to the analysts at Wednesday's Illumina meeting. Thanks for the link, by the way!

Mark Diebel September 13, 2007 at 7:41 PM  

From what I understand I think the question is what happens to the data... there are many (?) companies who are trying to make comprehensive collections of human genes. It is worth money to them... or potentially so.

Ungrateful Little Bastard September 13, 2007 at 7:46 PM  

Oh not for free!

But you know I'm going to sign up anyway. This is TOO fascinating. Also, more seriously, the medical information part of it, for people like me... I can't put a price tag on that, seriously.

And thank YOU for the good write up for us not-so-smart folks!!

Mark I did the Genographic Project which fed into FamilyTreeDNA and Mitosearch, so yeah, there's a lot of data out there on a lot of different sites. I think the intriguing thing for me is, what is 23andme going to offer that the other sites don't. And yeah, the medical part is a huge draw.

Anonymous,  September 14, 2007 at 4:22 AM  

What worries me is if insurance companies and the like get their hands on this info and make their decisions on what *potential* medical problems you might get.

For instance, suppose you have a gene that indicates that you could be prone to diabetes. It does not mean you will get it but the insurance company could put up your premiums just in case you do.

I guess I can be a bit cynical.


Anonymous,  September 14, 2007 at 4:35 AM  

You are right that it is not free.

Here is a price list from the Genetic Genealogist link on your post.

Illumina produces “SNP chips”, chips that can test a genome for thousands of SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms) at a time. For example, the company has one chip that tests one million SNPs for as little as $600, and another chip that tests 550,000 SNPs (the HumanHap550) for only $300-$450.


Anonymous,  September 14, 2007 at 4:47 AM  

Now this is interesting.

Here is a snippet from Forbes;

"Dyson, the 23andMe investor and board member, is one of 10 people who have agreed to have their DNA sequenced and put on the Internet as part of the Personal Genome Project."

I wonder how many people will contact them to tell them that they are related when they compare DNA to those 10 people?

Very interesting.


Ungrateful Little Bastard September 14, 2007 at 7:51 AM  

It will be interesting to see what they charge for the consumer version. This is getting a lot more attention than some of the other similar services such as the dna project that's being offered by - most likely because the google-connection makes it newsworthy.

TheGeneticGenealogist September 14, 2007 at 8:01 AM  


There is legislation currently in Congress called GINA that would prohibit insurance companies from using genetic information.

That being said, I'm not sure that we really need GINA. I think we're going to find that everyone's genome will reveal at least SOME propensity for disease. Thus, genetic information would just become another risk factor in the insurance company calculations. A colleague once said to me, "once we all get sequenced, we'll all be uninsurable." I plan to expand on this thought on my blog in the next week or so.

Andie D. September 14, 2007 at 9:31 AM  

Ugh. It's not free? You bet your ass I'd be the first to sign up if it were.

Anonymous,  September 14, 2007 at 11:56 AM  

So you're going to be a (dare I say it) EARLY ADOPTER?

*ducking out*

Ungrateful Little Bastard September 15, 2007 at 12:51 AM  

Yes, I will be an early adopter. 23andMe grew in my heart. I fell in love with the logo. THE LORD called me to sign up. I'm blessed by SNPs. I'll stop now.

Andi no, sorry, it was an understandable misquote by Mashable. I'm kind of getting the feeling though this *might* turn out to be less expensive than some of the other services for a number of reasons, but time will tell.

And Dr. B I'm looking forward to your follow up post on GINA.

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