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Biotech Science Technology

Two Companies Now Offering Personal Gene Sequencing 146

Posted by Zonk
from the sequencing-for-fun-and-profit dept.
corded writes "Yesterday, deCODE genetics announced the launch of their $985 personal genotyping product, deCODEme (video), beating their competitors to market. Perhaps not coincidentally, 23andMe's website is suddenly much more informative today, and the New York Times features a preview of 23andMe's $999 offering. deCODEme and 23andMe will scan about a million and 600,000 sites across the genome, respectively and assess your risk for common diseases, along with providing information about ancestry, physical traits, and the ability to compare genes with friends and family."
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Two Companies Now Offering Personal Gene Sequencing

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  • My only question is: will some company will come after this one with a portfolio of gene pantents and licensing terms?
    • Fortunately, the science behind this was almost all grant-funded research published in academic journals, rather than corporate R&D kept under lock and key as trade secrets or described in overbroad patents which prevent anyone from using the knowledge without paying an absurdly high price. The genomic revolution, of which this story is a very small part, is an object lesson in the usefulness of government-funded research and academic publication.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by foobsr (693224) *
        "A new study shows that 20 percent of human genes have been patented in the United States, primarily by private firms and universities."
        as of 2005 [nationalgeographic.com]

        Ohne Worte (spechless, though not quite)

        CC.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Very true, which IMO is an object lesson in why we shouldn't allow gene patents. But that's beside the point. The type of SNP mapping these companies are offering is all based on work that's well in the public domain.
          • by Veramocor (262800)
            But at least they were patented now when there really isn't too much we can do with each individual gene. In 20 years the patents gone and can never be patented again (hopefully). By the science may have advanced enough to utilize the knowledge of each individual gene.
  • by Noishe (829350)
    I don't know about you guys, but I think that's f'in awesomely cool!
    • Don't let the luddites and paranoid types get you down! This rocks. Great winter solstice gift, too!
      • Third that (Score:3, Interesting)

        by 4D6963 (933028)

        I do too think it's cool, and the search for genes that might pose a health risk sounds like something great for public health. I don't know what it would implicate, but I suppose it might tell you how likely you are to have a certain type of cancer/cardiovascular disease/alzheimer and allow you to stay on the look-out for what you're the most likely to have.

        Actually I hope one day (within the next 20 years) gene sequencing for health purposes will be made systematically for health purposes and stored in a

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jamstar7 (694492)

          Actually I hope one day (within the next 20 years) gene sequencing for health purposes will be made systematically for health purposes and stored in a super-high security database that other branches of the government/law enforcement couldn't get to, except of course via a special warrant emitted by a judge.

          No thank you. Having everybody's genome in a database someplace is a monumentally BAD idea. What's to stop some unscrupulous person deciding they don't like, for instance, people with blonde hair and

          • by 4D6963 (933028)

            Duh. I was just reading about paraphilias [wikipedia.org] and here's one that should have made it to the list : "Fudophilia : sexual arousal from hearing or creating FUD".

            Seriously, it's like you guys really love FUD, I mean look at what you just said, it's like you didn't even think for a second about what could be done to prevent the abuses you're talking about, you're just going "OMG this is what's gonna happen if we do that" as if there was no way to prevent that. You just start imagining scenarios in which, in our cas

            • by jamstar7 (694492)

              Seriously, it's like you guys really love FUD, I mean look at what you just said, it's like you didn't even think for a second about what could be done to prevent the abuses you're talking about, you're just going "OMG this is what's gonna happen if we do that" as if there was no way to prevent that. You just start imagining scenarios in which, in our case, data is as unprotected as possible and that the most evil person/group of persons you can imagine tries to exploit it, and then far-fetching the whole t

              • by 4D6963 (933028)

                Look at what you're saying, "Nothing to worry about, our government would never lie, our corporations are honest."

                Quit putting words in my mouth you fudophile communist hippie. I'm not saying the government is to be trusted, I'm just saying, it doesn't have to be trusted, you can make sure that things are government-proof, but you're not even thinking about such things, all you wanna do is whine about how the government and corporations are crooked and evil by nature. You just seem to enjoy fatalism and u

                • by rts008 (812749)
                  You need to put down that glass of the current Koolaide you're on and pull your head out of your ass and look around you at reality.

                  He has spoken no FUD, but you sure are.

                  Have you not been paying attention these past few years to world events?

                  Drop your crack pipe and step away from your computer or crawl up out of your mom's basement for that last bag of Cheetos in the cupboard-whatever, you are not contributing here- you are just annoying noise.
          • by eggnet (75425)
            Haha, so you're saying that the one thing stopping someone from creating a virus to kill all blond and brown eyed people is a database of everyone in the US?

            Please.
        • I'm less worried about the government having access to everyone's DNA profile than the insurance companies. Being on the lookout for any illnesses you're at risk for won't help much if your insurance company finds a way to use the information to deny you coverage.

          • by 4D6963 (933028)

            Yeah well, if we're talking about the companies mentioned in TFS we can be legitimately worried about that, indeed, but in the hypothetical case I described, then that wouldn't happen.

    • Suppose they just make some shit up and tell you it's Your genome. How will you know? With only two companies, even if you were to have it done by another company you would not know which version was right if either. I suppose you could submit the same thing twice to one company under different fake names but they could also be devious too. Just sample your genome for a signature region (e.g. a restriction digest) and they essentially have a hash code for recognizing you if you try to sneak a second one
  • Sergey Brin is going to marry Anne, co-foundeer of 23andMe. Today read about it somewhere, but forgot where the article was from..
    • Isn't it obvious what Google is up to now?

      Gene-based ads determined by the skin flake analyzer on their upcoming gPhone.


  • Amazing news! One step further will be exacting the analysis and actually telling the person about how his ancestors looked like, what color his children's eyes are gonna be, and whether he will die due to pancreatic cancer and etc =)

    Why don't we all support the research in biology (to create intelligent machines) and we are starting from Silicon and basically from nothing.

    While reading this, it occured to me that making a living organism more intelligent can be an alternative way to silicon-based AI, what'
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Emetophobe (878584)

      While reading this, it occured to me that making a living organism more intelligent can be an alternative way to silicon-based AI, what's your opinion?

      The movie Gattaca comes to mind.

      • by Tyger (126248)
        That was my first thought too. Like the sleezy looking place where you take a DNA sample of your potential partner and they give you a report on them.
  • Not yet (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Faux_Pseudo (141152) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [oduesP.xuaF]> on Saturday November 17, 2007 @03:58PM (#21392183) Homepage
    I wouldn't do this until some law is passed saying that if a test shows I am prone to some genetic condition that the insurance companies can't refuse me service because it is a pre-existing condition. Ignorance is financial bliss.
    • by MagicM (85041)
      Aren't all genetic diseases by definition pre-existing conditions?
      • Re:Not yet (Score:4, Insightful)

        by CrazedWalrus (901897) on Saturday November 17, 2007 @04:24PM (#21392359) Journal
        No, they're possible conditions. You can carry genes that increase your likelihood of having a disease, but not actually express them to the extent that you actually have a problem (or at all). For example, some gene is found to increase your chances of high cholesterol and therefore heart disease. You still may never have heart disease, and may not even actually have high cholesterol.

        In this example, a simple blood test can confirm the high cholesterol condition either way, and is a much more fair way of determining the insurance company's risk.

        In addition, some diseases wouldn't set in from childhood. In this case, a risk factor is pre-existing, but the disease itself is not.

        What this tells you is what to watch out for, not what you have.
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by francisstp (1137345)
      Why would you want such a law passed? More information means more efficient market processes.

      People with lower risk pay lower premiums, people with higher risk pay higher premiums.

      This is what the insurance business is all about.

      Insurance companies now have to charge high premiums because they're having a hard time assessing the individual risk levels. When more tools are available to help measure this risk, they'll be able to charge the right premiums, which will be on average lower than what th
      • You're talking about discrimination based on someones genes. I don't know anyone who would want what you are proposing (other than the insurance companies).

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Why would you want such a law passed? More information means more efficient market processes.

        People with lower risk pay lower premiums, people with higher risk pay higher premiums.

        This is what the insurance business is all about.

        Insurance companies now have to charge high premiums because they're having a hard time assessing the individual risk levels. When more tools are available to help measure this risk, they'll be able to charge the right premiums, which will be on average lower than what they are now.

        In other words they will exhaustively test every customer, seize upon every little bitty DNA defect they can find, assess it as a potential risk and jack up the premiums? Perhaps I am being paranoid here but I put the insurance industry right beside lawyers and estate agents on my list of blood sucking parasites that I mistrust on principle. Which puts them just a couple of pegs above 419ers, Enron executives, the Bush administration stooges who cooked up the Iraqi WMD evidence and generally all other othe

        • It seems to me that nobody really wants to get sick. So by seeing that people with predispositions to certain types of sickness get informed about this, then the insurance companies would save on payouts, because the informed customers will take precautions against the weaknesses/predispositions that they're warned about in advance.
      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        As other posters have pointed out, genetic tests do not test risk factors. Just because you have genes that MIGHT increase your risk, doesn't mean you have any risk. The normal tests are better, because they actually test if you have a condition, not your likelihood of ever developing the condition.

        If you give them access to genetic information that they could use to increase your payments, more then likely that is exactly what they will do. No ones genes are perfect, not after thousands of years of mixing
      • Flamebait? Sheesh, that was a valid point, although it could have been "nicer".

        The function of insurance, as such, is to spread a risk across a pool, where you don't know who will get what, except in a probabilistic sense.

        We all surely feel for those who are stuck with a genetic disease they had no control over, but if we collectively value health coverage for these diseases, we should be willing to pay for it collectively, NOT mandate that all insurance companies act as hybrid insurer-charities, which wou
      • People with lower risk pay lower premiums, people with higher risk pay higher premiums.

        I'm sure if you got your genes sequenced and found out your at a high risked for high cholesterol, liver cancer, and Alzheimer's you'd be signing a different tune when you got your bill from the insurance company.
      • Why would you want such a law passed? More information means more efficient market processes.

        Towards what end?

        People with lower risk pay lower premiums, people with higher risk pay higher premiums.

        The only thing that will do will allow the affluent to have who-knows-what genetically passed condition and pass it on, while encouraging market-based eugenics for the majority.

        Insurance companies now have to charge high premiums because they're having a hard time assessing the individual risk levels. When more tools are available to help measure this risk, they'll be able to charge the right premiums, which will be on average lower than what they are now.

        There are some things that can be helped, prescreening for uncurable disease/genetic predisposition is not one of them.

      • That system already exists. It is called "not having insurance". Insurance companies need to charge MORE for their premiums than they pay out in benefits. If they can pinpoint exactly how much they will be paying out for your benefits because they have good enough data to charge you the "right" premium, they would have to charge you the same amount you would pay without insurance plus a little for overhead and profit.

        The point of insurance is because people like me will hardly ever go to the doctor, a
        • by darthflo (1095225)

          they would have to charge you the same amount you would pay without insurance plus a little for overhead and profit.

          Yeah. But if you're one of 500 people with a .2% chance of having X, you might end up paying .25% of X's cure costs over the lifespan of your insurance policy for the security of knowing if you actually do get X, it won't ruin you financially. It's like playing the lottery. X people pay amount Y, Z (lucky in the case of lottery, unlucky when it comes to health problems) people receive X*Y/Z-o

    • Re:Not yet (Score:4, Insightful)

      by aldheorte (162967) on Saturday November 17, 2007 @04:24PM (#21392363)
      Can anyone give me an good argument as to why:

      1. Insurance companies should not deny people coverage based on a genetic assessment.
      2. Insurance companies should not charge a different premium based on genetic assessment.

      That is not based on political correctness? Note that, if you get life insurance, they already take blood and urine tests prior to determining your premium.
      • Re:Not yet (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Emetophobe (878584) on Saturday November 17, 2007 @05:15PM (#21392809)
        My only argument is Genetic discrimination [wikipedia.org]. Also, a lot more information can be found here [genome.gov].

        No one gets to choose their genetic makeup, sex or race when they are born, so why discriminate people based on something which is out of their control?

        Take a look at the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2007 [genome.gov]:

        The Genetic Nondiscrimination Act of 2007 (GINA) was passed in the U.S. House of Representatives, by a vote of 420-3. The act will protect individuals against discrimination based on their genetic information when it comes to health insurance and employment. These protections are intended to encourage Americans to take advantage of genetic testing as part of their medical care.

        • Insurance companies, as private enterprises, should have the right to charge whatever they want to whomever they want, as long as a free and open market exists (with no monopoly insurance companies, etc.)

          Insurance companies already charge different rates to drivers of different ages, for example, even though this amounts to "discrimination" based on something the customer cannot control (i.e., the year in which s/he was born.) They do this because statistically, younger drivers represent a higher risk to

          • Re:Not yet (Score:4, Insightful)

            by AxelBoldt (1490) on Saturday November 17, 2007 @08:50PM (#21394221) Homepage

            Insurance companies, as private enterprises, should have the right to charge whatever they want to whomever they want,

            They do not now have that right, nor should they have that right in the future. Just because they are private enterprises does not mean that they should be exempt of regulation; in fact, the whole point of regulation is to make the profit motive of private enterprises work in parallel with the public interest.

            It's in the public interest that people have access to affordable health insurance, in particular if their genes show that they may need it in the future. If insurers were allowed to cherry-pick, then ultimately the taxpayers would have to pay for the treatment of these people, unless you want to let them rot homelessly in the streets.

            • Here, the primary public interest should be long-term. That is, the gene pool quality. The secondary public interest is the economy; we need smart and strong people who will work.

              A fair deal is that we treat people with genetic defects if they agree to not produce kids.
      • Re:Not yet (Score:4, Insightful)

        by evanbd (210358) on Saturday November 17, 2007 @05:20PM (#21392843)

        Insurance companies should charge the correct amount, given all knowledge of risk factors -- insurance should be spreading risk among your insurance pool, not about getting free medical care. The problem is that this results in morally repugnant things like denying people care for unlikely conditions they're predisposed to but had no control over.

        In an ideal world, this would be an argument for socialized medicine, or at least goverment-run health insurance for such factors. At a societal level, a certain fraction of people will have genetic anomalies, and at a societal level we shouldn't discriminate against them. It's no different from a car accident -- even if you're a good, careful driver, you roll the dice every time you get behind the wheel. The difference is that the dice get rolled (at least in part) long before the healthcare bills start to appear. But, that doesn't make it any less of a "risk" -- it just means that people can attempt to opt out of paying their share after they've checked the dice roll.

        The ideal solution would be to cover everyone based on a pool composed of everyone -- aka mandatory government funded insurance (or socialized healthcare, depending on how you want to look at it).

        (And to wander further afield -- there are lots of issues with our current healthcare system. I'm skeptical that socialized healthcare is the answer, and I don't know that implementing government insurance for genetic conditions would actually improve anything. At the same time, I find it ethically wrong to allow people to use genetic results they know about in decisions about what healthcare coverage to buy, but not allow the providers to use the same information in decisions about what to charge. It's a difficult and many-faceted problem, and I won't pretend to have even some of the answers.)

      • by daeg (828071)
        This is a strong argument for a national healthcare system that does not discriminate. Allow, and perhaps subsidize, people to take these detailed genetic tests to alert them to possible predisposition to things. Many genetic conditions can be combated with diet, exercise, or other preventative things (high cholesterol comes to mind as a good example). It can also give doctors a valuable clue to look in a unified medical chart and see that you have a specific gene that can lead to an exotic condition, or th
      • by h4rm0ny (722443)

        1. Insurance companies should not deny people coverage based on a genetic assessment.
        2. Insurance companies should not charge a different premium based on genetic assessment.

        In the US, health care is largely based on insurance, as opposed to much of Western Europe where it is seen as a basic right. Therefore, allowing different charging or even exclusion as in your number 1 scenario, would deny or impact people's access to health care in the USA to a dramatic level. This would be bad for a number of rea

      • by autophile (640621)

        My argument would be that an insurance company is incapable of determining a person's future worth outside of their genetic cost.

        --Rob

      • by eggnet (75425)
        I can give you a great argument.

        If everyone had perfect knowledge of all risk factors, as did insurance companies, and insurance companies were allowed to charge everyone according to those risk factors, everyone would be better off putting money in an investment account instead of insurance.

        The point of insurance is to spread risk around. What's the point of insurance if you are guaranteed to have cancer and have to pay your full bill in the form of a premium?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by wizardforce (1005805)

      The next step in addressing the issue of genetic discrimination was taken by President Bill Clinton. The President had earlier supported proposed legislation that would have banned all health plans - group or individual - from denying coverage or raising premiums on the basis of genetic information. When the legislation failed to pass Congress, President Clinton issued an executive order ( Executive Order 13145 to Prohibit Discrimination in Federal Employment Based on Genetic Information) in February 2000 p

  • Guarentees ? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by drozofil (1112491)

    What about privacy ? How could one be sure that they don't keep the records in some kind of database ? The possibility to make comparisons with friends/family seems like a pretext to keep that kind of data.

    What about the genetic information that cannot be interpreted as of today ? Will it get stored anyways, leaving future analysis possible ? (Is there a subscription for updates ??

    What kind of questions these sort of tests can answer that you can't answer ? Besides disease detection (I thought there we


  • I read this story earlier in the day on another site and I still don't understand one thing. Many companies offer genetic testing for specific genetic mutations for a heck of a lot more money, and they hold the "patents." For example, Myriad charges over $3,000 just for a BRCA1/2 (breast/ovarian cancer mutation) test.

    So, are we really getting the full picture with these full-sequence deals? How do they get around the patents, such as Myriad's? What am I missing? Are you just getting some report of your sequ
    • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) on Saturday November 17, 2007 @04:33PM (#21392435) Homepage Journal
      What they're offering isn't "full sequencing." It's looking at a very specific set of markers (SNPs) which are known to vary widely between individuals. SNP stands for single nucleotide polymorphism -- that means one base pair or bp. There are about three billion bps in the human genome, of which these companies identify about a million, or one out of every three thousand. Such markers are certainly sufficient for genealogy, and are often enough to locate the regions of the genome on which genes predictive for certain diseases may be found, but they're nowhere near the full sequence. By way of analogy (I'm sure someone will come along to punch holes in this, but I think it's a pretty good one) a million-SNP map of your genome is like the satellite view of your house you get from Google; a full sequence is like knowing the location of every blade of grass on your lawn.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by kilpatjr (65285)
        Someone please mod the parent higher. It's good to see someone who seems to know what's going on.

        The grandparent message is correct that the $1000 genome will not tell you about BRCA 1/2 or other "patented" genes. In fact, I'd have a hard time believing this tells users much about many diseases. The truth of the matter is that most genetic disease are caused by several mutations which may elevate risk. Mendelian traits -- those caused by a single mutation -- are quite rare and you're likely to know if y
        • by h4rm0ny (722443)

          Let me get this straight. It's pretty clearly what you're saying but I'm having a hard time actually believing it. In the USA, patent law actually forbids you to look at portions of your own DNA?
          • by Nazlfrag (1035012)
            It's quite insane, and its not just humans but plants, insects, you name it, someones out there patenting a genome sequence of it. It seems ludicrous, but hey look at the crazy stuff they do to modify natural remedies into pharmaceuticals introducing all sorts of unwanted effects, all because they wouldn't let nature be patented. We sure learned our lesson there, won't let that happen again. Damn, its becoming like I don't even know if I'm being sarcastic anymore. That's it, I'm off to take a patent out on
      • by Cyberax (705495)
        I'm sorry. Only car analogies are allowed on Slashdot.
    • by eli pabst (948845)
      I believe most of the BRCA tests are done by full sequencing because there are lots of different BRCA1 mutations, so you can't just pick a handful of previously known variants like the deCode project. The BRCA genes themselves are also a real pain because they are relatively large and they are composed of lots of small exons (segments), which makes it even more technically cumbersome.
  • I think it's nice to get 1 million markers genotyped, but what about a comprehensive plan after? My idea would be something like navigenics (www.navigenics.com). Nevertheless, family history is way more informative...
  • by aldheorte (162967) on Saturday November 17, 2007 @04:01PM (#21392211)
    People in past discussions mentioned this, but the ability to compare genes with family members may shock more than a few people who do not share as many genetic characteristics with their father and siblings as they thought. Apparently, estimates of conceptive infidelity place the natural rate at a much higher percentage than actually known to the conceived children.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 17, 2007 @04:58PM (#21392671)
      And yet in most US states there is a irrebuttable presumption that a husband is the father of his wife's child if the child was born during the marriage.
      So, even if you can prove (DNA testing) that she had an affair and "your child" isn't your child, the courts, in the divorce, will still treat the child as yours and force you to pay support etc. This. of course, is all done in the interest of the child.

      Also, paternity fraud (lying about the father of the child) is not considered domestic abuse. It is A-OK as far as the courts are concerned.

      Welcome to equality
    • by eli pabst (948845) on Sunday November 18, 2007 @12:11AM (#21395269)
      Yeah, this is actually a significant issue in the genetics field. Depending on the population, you can have upwards of 10% non-paternity, which can really screw things up when you are trying to trace the inheritance of disease-causing mutations as they are passed through a family. With all the HIPAA regulations you could obviously never disclose any of that, but we had a medical student once take it on themselves to call a family and basically say "hey we did these genetic tests and they aren't coming out correctly, are you sure that so-and-so is the father?". I'm sure it was a quiet dinner that night.
  • Anonymity? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Mr. Sketch (111112) <mister DOT sketch AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday November 17, 2007 @04:05PM (#21392227)
    Is this anonymous? Namely so that if it turns out I have some risk factor for a genetic condition, that my health insurance can't find out about it and raise my premiums.
    • by drozofil (1112491)

      Having such a service with a guaranteed anonymity would solve many privacy issues.

      You're not the first to mention related insurance costs. Is it funny or is it greedy ? that I can't tell.

      What I thing about these costs is that they should relate to your personal history. DNA isn't part of your personal history (one could argue on that, I won't for now). You're not responsible in any way of what your DNA looks like. You never had any chance to modify it, nor to choose any part of it. If insurance companie

      • What I thing about these costs is that they should relate to your personal history. DNA isn't part of your personal history (one could argue on that, I won't for now). You're not responsible in any way of what your DNA looks like.

        You don't get any choice about when you were born, either -- but they'll still charge higher premiums for you when you're 70 than when you're 30.
    • by xtracto (837672) on Saturday November 17, 2007 @04:20PM (#21392325) Journal
      Lol, it is so funny to read the comments from this story. I found amusing how there are already various comments wondering how would that affect negatively to their health insurance... whereas this would be *great* for say, someone under the NHS as it would allow the doctors to focus on monitoring those specific genetic conditions.

      It just show how screwed up the paradigm of insured medicine is... It is a good thing that this sort of genetic monitoring is becoming available for everybody. However, I find it unfortunate to see that it can be used against those people by the same corporations who are supposed to look for your health... go capitalism!

      • I found amusing how there are already various comments wondering how would that affect negatively to their health insurance... However, I find it unfortunate to see that it can be used against those people by the same corporations who are supposed to look for your health... go capitalism!

        It appears to me that they're mainly worried that the genetic aspects of their health are more risky than they and their insurers previously thought, meaning that the premiums they were paying before were unfairly low.

        • by nanoakron (234907)
          This is clearly the wrong approach, since a fundamental element of civilization is reducing or eliminating any individual's ability to externalize their costs onto others

          Where the hell did you get this idea? A fundamental element of the civilisation I live in is to increasingly look after our fellow man.

          Just because your country has its priorities arse-backwards - Kill brown people first, get fellow countrymen healthy second.
      • by Rich0 (548339)
        Actually, it isn't anything quite as sinister as people are making it out to be, but rather a fundamental problem with the insurance industry. The purpose of insurance is to protect you against the unknown, and to balance risks across society. Most people don't incur huge health costs before they become old, so this allows everybody to pay in a moderate amount (relatively) and then the few that really need it can spend huge sums.

        The whole thing breaks down when health issues are no longer an unknown quant
        • by darthflo (1095225)
          Fortunately all this genetic analysis doesn't tell you what's going to happen but gives you an estimate of your risk. Suppose we let the free market rule, insurances may just calculate how expensive you'll probably be and determine your individual rates that way. If you've got a 12.7% chance of getting X which costs $100k to cure (on average), your rate over the expected lifespan of your policy will be $12.5k higher than an otherwise identical person with 0.2% chance of getting X sometime.
          Savings thru the
          • by Rich0 (548339)
            You are correct as to the fact that this technology does not predict certainties, but only risks. However, the fundamental issue exists that as knowledge increases, insurance tends to fail. Rates HAVE to be based on known risks or else the industry fails.

            You're right of course that it is lousy that people end up paying the price for stuff they have no control over.

            As this technology improves the uncertainty of future medical problems will steadily decrease. If the cost of treating those problems does not
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by francisstp (1137345)
      Obviously they'll want to know about your condition beforehand!

      Imagine if all cancer patients knew in advance they'd almost certainly have cancer, but not the insurance companies. The latter would all go bankrupt because their payout amounts would far exceed the premium payments collected.

      You can't have your cake and eat it too and all...
      • by siwelwerd (869956)
        They wouldn't go bankrupt, they'd just start charging higher premiums, and likely offer you a discount if you could show them a genetic screening showing you're less at risk.
  • This is great! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hikaru2895 (1190419) on Saturday November 17, 2007 @04:08PM (#21392247)
    This is great! But who owns the code? The NY Times article says that you aren't given your code, you have to view it through the company's viewer.

    Also, who owns your genetic code in a larger sense?

    I remember a funny science fiction story, which maybe isn't so funny anymore.

    A football team attempted to patent the genetic code for one of it's star running backs, so they could clone him and assure the success of the franchise forever. When he complained, he was told he should have read the fine print of the contract better...

    The football team's legal team were trumped, when his parents stepped up and proclaimed thier rights as the original creators of this particular bit of intellectual property...

    (i feel inspired to sign up, this is my first post to slashdot, posting is fun!)
  • From the NYT link:

    For example, my hands hurt the other day. So naturally, I checked my DNA.

    Was this the first sign that I had inherited the arthritis that gnarled my paternal grandmother's hard-working fingers? Logging onto my account at 23andMe, the start-up company that is now my genetic custodian, I typed my search into the "Genome Explorer" and hit return. I was, in essence, Googling my own DNA.

    What if you have a more serious condition (or are genetically predisposed to getting some form of cancer for e

  • WTF?

    There are states that don't let their citizens see the risk assessment of their own decoded genes?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      I think what's going on is an overzeaous application of carelessly written privacy laws. It's not that NJ (or any of the other states on the list) doesn't want you to see the map; it's that the states have laws preventing companies from doing certain kinds of data mining involving other people's genetic data necessary to give you meaningful results. (SNP maps in isolation are pretty useless.) Most likely the laws were written when having this kind of test done for an affordable price was impossible. The
  • I always knew Gattaca was a documentary!
  • Will this bring genetic engineering 1 step closer to public access? Will the public eventually be able to order customized genes for the expression of desirable physical features? I think this would be pretty cool. Or could it be like the distopian city Rapture in Bioshock where mutant splicers running amock? Or will government regulation stifle it?
  • Insurance (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MikShapi (681808) on Saturday November 17, 2007 @04:51PM (#21392593) Journal
    How do we expect insurance companies to handle this? What about the "two publics"?

    On one hand, doomsayers here are saying insurance companies can choose to not insure someone with certain genes or charge them insane amounts.
    Scary, but the solution is obvious -
    [1] force insurance companies to ensure ANYONE
    [2] legally define and enforce a ceiling rate they can charge, regardless of how bad your genes look.

    I can already hear privacy advocates screaming and yelling "why give them our genes in the first place"? That's a moot point for two reasons -
    1. It's a losing battle. Eventually, our genes (or those of our relatives) will be accessible.
    2. Hiding our genes in general os shooting ourselves in the foot. Some (and I belong to this group, hence will use "we") may WANT their genes to be publicly available, much like I want source to be available. So products, offerings, solutions to problems and industry can spring due to their availability.

    The most obvious reason not to hide our genes, however, is simple: people who have non-fucked genes will want to, they will pay a lower premium. Money talks.

    Here is how it will most likely evolve from what we have today:

    We pay today default premium X. I will assume charging >X is not financially feasible due to competition, and that X is the sweet spot.

    Insurance companies will offer a genetic evaluation kit. It allows one to PRIVATELY evaluate himself, and submit the results to the insurance companies if his genes are ok, thereby halving his premium to 0.5X.

    After a period of adoption, let's say several years, The percentage of "fucked genes" individuals in the default pool will be much higher, as many of the "ok genes" individuals have opted to pay less by letting their genes be known to the insurance company. The insurance expenses associated with maintaining the default pool will go up, causing X to go up to 2X, causing more and more people to abandon that pool.

    At some point government regulation kicks in, and sets a government-controlled ceiling rate for the default rate (much like they control minimum wage).

    Since the default rate is now at 2X, the insurance companies set the "ok genes" rate back from 0.5X to X, as it allows them to both maintain their incentive for people to abandon the default-paying group and share their genes, as well as allowing them to charge as much as the market allows - X.

    It may be 0.9X (as the minority that costs the most is covering its expenses through a higher rate and possible government subsidation, hence making the competition-induced sweet-spot lower than when this included many expensive cases to treat).

    I predict this will happen, as this is where the incentives are today. Note that the primary driving force here is consumer "greed", not insurance companies. People will want to pay that lower premium, even if crappy prophets such as myself predict that once the "fucked genes" people were isolated in the default group, everyone's rates will go back to what they were before (except the defaulters that will pay more). People will FLOCK once lower rates are offered, because people are damn well motivated by paying less.

    Insurance companies WILL know our genes and it's a losing battle.

    Think it through. Share your opinion.
    It's something that requires thought and debate NOW.
    • Re:Insurance (Score:5, Insightful)

      by evanbd (210358) on Saturday November 17, 2007 @05:26PM (#21392895)

      There's another interesting potential use for genetic disease screening. I don't know if it applies to any known diseases now, but I'm certain it will eventually.

      Suppose there's a disease for which there is a genetic test, but also good preventative care options. Ideally, you'd want to take the test, find out that you're at risk, and have the insurance company pay for the prevantative care. In an ideal world, that's what they would want too -- the preventative care would cost them less than paying if you actually did get sick. Both parties would then want the test administered, and want the other party to know the result.

      • Thats why this stuff needs to NOT be a secret, however I don't know that the insurance companies will refrain from charging more based on the results of that test etc.
        • by evanbd (210358)
          Well, given the current structure of our insurance system, having it be open would be a really bad idea. Which is quite unfortunate. I was speaking to a more idealized case than the current US healthcare system.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by autophile (640621)

        Suppose there's a disease for which there is a genetic test, but also good preventative care options. Ideally, you'd want to take the test, find out that you're at risk, and have the insurance company pay for the prevantative care. In an ideal world, that's what they would want too -- the preventative care would cost them less than paying if you actually did get sick.

        I disagree.

        Suppose the insurance company gets the results of the test. Then the company could just drop coverage altogether, so that they

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by evanbd (210358)
          Normally, insurance companies aren't allowed to drop coverage or raise rates based on information that becomes available after your coverage starts. (If you have information that you withhold when signing up, that's a different story.)
    • The whole point of insurance is to create a pool of money so that people who actually need to use it for a medical bill, can offset the costs. If you start excluding people entirely from the pool based on genes, that pool will shrink to nothing. Tiered rates based on genetic information are another issue, but even in that case medical costs would still hopefully be offset from the real cost.
    • by Rich0 (548339)
      Well, ultimately I think that these kinds of advances will inevitably lead to socialized medicine. And I'm actually not a big fan of socialized medicine.

      Here's why:

      1. If you allow insurance companies to charge based on genetic risk, then people from birth won't get affordable insurance if they're going to have any major health problem. These people will end up being cared for by government.

      2. If you allow individuals to find out their genetic risk but keep it secret from insurers, then individuals won't
  • by mexicanpizza (1151143) on Saturday November 17, 2007 @05:13PM (#21392787) Homepage
    The three main personalized genomics companies that have hinted at their offerings (23andMe, deCODEme, and Navigenics) are all basically offering the same product, SNP genotyping:

    23andMe: 550k SNPs + 30k custom SNPs, $999

    deCODEme: >1M SNPs, $985

    Navigenics: $2500, with hints at a "lock-in" model where you purchase a subscription service for continued updates as science understands more about disease:genotype correlation.

    ...however, deCODEme is founded by perhaps the largest private genetics-centered biopharma firm. It will be interesting to see how this plays out as the IT-strong 23andMe competes with the science-strong deCODEme.

    One company that was not mentioned is Knome [knome.com]. They haven't released details of their service, but instead of SNPs, they plan to offer whole genome sequencing. This is the direction that all of the above companies will head, once it's economically feasible to sequence the whole genome.

    (Most of this has been summarized on my site: http://seqanswers.com [seqanswers.com])
  • Tres Huevos (Score:2, Interesting)

    by PingXao (153057)
    My new startup will allow parents to sequence the genes of their male offspring to include a third testicle. What better way to increase the odds that your bloodline will survive the coming century of famine and war? And that's only the beginning. It is not government's role to interfere with progress or business, so nobody better try and stop me.
  • Just a tidbit, 23AndMe was created by Anne Wojcicki, who is Sergey Brin [wikipedia.org]'s wife

Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig. -- Lazarus Long, "Time Enough for Love"

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