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$999 For a Complete DNA Scan, Worth it? 451

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the something-to-think-about dept.
DoroSurfer writes "ZDNet is reporting that 23andme.com will open its doors on Monday, allowing you to send them a cheek swab and have your DNA analyzed for $999 (plus shipping, of course... ;)). So what's a thousand bucks buy you? They can tell you your ancient ancestry, They can tell you what diseases you're predisposed to, They give you a "Gene Explorer" that allows you to do a search in your genome to find out if you have a certain gene (e.g., you just heard on the news that Gene XYZ has been linked to Alzheimer's Disease)."
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$999 For a Complete DNA Scan, Worth it?

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  • by Besna (1175279) * on Monday December 03, 2007 @01:05PM (#21561169)
    I'm going to wait for the full genome scan. Early adopters here will be getting much less than the real thing. With X-prize still contests around for genome scanning, it should not be too long. I want every C, T, G, and A.

    After that, I'm all for it. Not even a needle prick is needed.
  • by haluness (219661) on Monday December 03, 2007 @01:08PM (#21561221)
    How long will it be before they "lose" the gene data? Or maybe "share" the data?

    Also given that the CEO is Sergey Brins wife, I wonder whether Google will get involved at one point?
  • by Nerdposeur (910128) on Monday December 03, 2007 @01:11PM (#21561267) Journal

    That's a lot of money for a relatively new technology. While I think the idea is cool, I'd rather wait a few years when it's cheaper, works better, and there's more competition in the field. Let the early adopters pay the high fee and the rest of us can reap the benefits when the costs come down.

    And of course, every year we'll have a better idea of what the results actually mean.

    Maybe one day it will be as simple as a home blood-sugar test - "use this combination finger pricker/USB drive to get an instant scan of your DNA!"

  • by timcrews (763629) on Monday December 03, 2007 @01:20PM (#21561391)
    Our doctor advised us once that we should not do genetic assays unless it was a serious health situation. Anything that you learn in the negative direction may be grounds for future denial of health insurance coverage. If you're just curious -- it is probably better not to know.
  • by Lord Ender (156273) on Monday December 03, 2007 @01:20PM (#21561395) Homepage
    As a science junkie (but engineer by day), it seems apparent that genetics technology could be as big as (if not bigger) than computer technology has been for the past twenty years. The problem is, someone with a BS in Software Engineering or Computer Science will start out making $50-%70k, while someone with a BS in Biology will only make about $30k. With those kinds of numbers, a scientifically inclined undergrad would be making a huge gamble by selecting Bio as a major.

    My hope is that services like this will start to provide jobs for our current Bio grads, pushing the salaries up to a level that makes the choice of a Biology major much more desirable. Only then will the genetic revolution really start to take off.
  • In Other News (Score:3, Interesting)

    by lupine (100665) * on Monday December 03, 2007 @01:22PM (#21561435) Journal
    White House seeks to expand DNA database [usatoday.com]
    Citizens, including juveniles who have been arrested for a crime(but not convicted) are being added to the governments DNA database.
  • by this great guy (922511) on Monday December 03, 2007 @01:26PM (#21561483)

    I can't find who the CEO of 23andme is (after only 30 sec of research), but Anne Wojcicki is indeed at least co-founder of the company and member of the Board of Directors: https://www.23andmeobjects.com/res/1570/pdf/factsheet.pdf [23andmeobjects.com]

    Oh and Google is already involved in this company, they are an investor: https://www.23andme.com/about/corporate [23andme.com]

  • Caveat Emptor (Score:2, Interesting)

    by zombie_striptease (966467) on Monday December 03, 2007 @01:33PM (#21561569)
    Funnily enough, I got to reading about a similar service last week: The DNA Ancestry Project run by GeneBase (they've had banner ads all over ScienceDaily). As the name implies, it focuses on the Ancestry rather than giving information on disease susceptibility, though I think I remember reading that you'd have full access to your code online and be able to search it. Unfortunately, looking around for further info online returned a blog post [geneticsandhealth.com] full of commenters who were ripped off in a big way by the company. I'm not saying that any company running a similar service is also out to scam you, but I would generally encourage the buyer to be wary, particularly considering the cost of the service and how little and often vague our knowledge really is in this field at the moment.
  • by schwit1 (797399) on Monday December 03, 2007 @01:54PM (#21561819)
    What if I sent a swab from a perspective mate to see what genetic anomalies she may contribute to offspring? What if I sent a swab from my child to see what genetic anomalies they may have? In neither case would it be consensual.
  • by cayenne8 (626475) on Monday December 03, 2007 @01:55PM (#21561831) Homepage Journal
    Yeah..I was wondering exactly when the information would be released to the insurance companies, so they can cherry pick people even better than they do now. I've heard anecdotal evidence that they've even turned down people for coverage due to athlete's foot as a pre-existing condition!?!?

    After that...I wonder how long before the various branches of government will require this DNA data be turned over for the US Homeland security national DNA database?? Of course, we won't know about it...this will be required with a national security letter, which will gag the company from even mentioning the requirement.

    More and more I find that Python wasn't just being funny with the skit "The Importance of not being Seen", they were prophetical.....

  • Gets you out of CSS (Score:2, Interesting)

    by fozzmeister (160968) on Monday December 03, 2007 @02:04PM (#21561963) Homepage
    If it stops you having to pay Child Support for the next 18 years, that's gotta be worth it!
  • Re:Only if... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by secolactico (519805) on Monday December 03, 2007 @02:44PM (#21562515) Journal
    I dunno, man. Did you see the Venture Bros. spoof of the Fantastic 4?
  • by Red Flayer (890720) on Monday December 03, 2007 @02:53PM (#21562645) Journal

    What if I sent a swab from a perspective mate to see what genetic anomalies she may contribute to offspring?
    I'm all for it -- now I won't be deceived about my mates' genetics due to the work they've had done by their plastic surgeons.

    I'm sick of the genetic fraud being perpetrated by these gold-diggers, I want to know up-front if my kids will be hit by the ugly stick on their way out of the womb.
  • Re:In Other News (Score:4, Interesting)

    by lupine (100665) * on Monday December 03, 2007 @03:16PM (#21562903) Journal
    They don't need to have everyone in the database to effectively have a DNA tracking of all citizens. If one person in your family is in the database [latimes.com] then you are in the database. [usatoday.com]
    In addition to the fee they collect from you this company might be recieving your tax money through an outsourcing program to the help populate the government database or they may strictly maintain client confidentiality until they receive a national security letter [wikipedia.org] from the department of homeland surveillance, but the end result is the same.

    In my previous post I linked to a 4 year old cnn article to show that the government has been using questionable means to populate codis [wikipedia.org] for quite some time now and I doubt that this government intrusion into personal privacy will be exposed until it is too late and the entire population is effectively mapped.
  • by hey! (33014) on Monday December 03, 2007 @03:59PM (#21563467) Homepage Journal
    Well, why should the company match personally identifiable information with genetic information? Granted, to some degree genetic information is the data.

    One way would look like this. The customer buys a package which has the sample kit, a pair of postage guaranteed mailers with no return address, a ten sided die, and a sample container with a universally unique, random identifier. The customer takes the sample and places it in the container. He then rolls the ten sided die to generate a fifteen digit PIN, which he records on a two ply form. He puts the identified sample in one mailer, along with the list of tests to be performed. The sample ID and PIN pairing go in a separate mailer, and he can mail them from a different place if need be.

    When the sample/sample id and sample id/pin arrive, they are treated in a way that precludes reconstructing any PII without collusion between parties. Probably each of these goes to a different place, which is different from the test lab. The customer receives his PIN encrypted data by one time download from an Internet site.

    Of course if you're a Nepali-Apache-Basque albino, you're probably at a disadvantage on the genetic privacy front, so you make sure you don't order any health tests and ancestry tests on the same sample. In fact, this might be a good policy in general: no sample should be screened for more than one kind of data: you either screen a sample for a disease, or for ancestry information but not both. Customers desiring both services have to submit two samples.

    I'd consider using the service if it were as secure as the one I describe. Anything less I'd be very concerned with. Associating genetic information with PII is a very, very bad idea; associating genetic samples with PII is just as bad, unless there is a compelling reason to do so.
  • humor (or so i hope) (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 04, 2007 @01:31AM (#21568475)
    Have you ever wanted the intrigue of being a serial killer but have ethical issues with the idea of actually harming anybody. Did you know that [insert statistic I haven't bothered to look up] murders go unsolved every year. Did you know that the number of people who are in the DNA database is very limited at this time. So if you submit your DNA now you have an excellent chance of being the "closest match in the database". Thats right, without so much as hurting someones feelings you could become the lead suspect in one, or even multiple, murders. Get scanned soon, the longer you wait the worse the murder/database ratio grows. Expert witnesses willing to testify that you "most likely" did it available for an additional fee. Results not guaranteed. No refunds.

You can do this in a number of ways. IBM chose to do all of them. Why do you find that funny? -- D. Taylor, Computer Science 350

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