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Google Invests In Genetic Indexing 74

Bibek Paudel point us to a BusinessWeek report on Google's interest in the cataloging and analyzing of people's DNA. Google has recently invested in DNA screening firms Navigenics and 23andMe, which test customers' DNA for characteristics such as ancestry and predisposition for certain diseases. The customers are then able to give the information to their doctors. This is not Google's first foray into the medical industry. "Google wants to plant an early stake in a potentially large new market around genetic data. 'We are interested in supporting companies and making investments in companies that [bolster] our mission statement, which is organizing the world's information and making it universally accessible and useful,' Google spokesman Andrew Pederson says. 'We felt it was important to get involved now, at the early stage, to better understand the information generated by this fast-moving field.'"
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Google Invests In Genetic Indexing

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  • by Cytlid ( 95255 ) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @01:45PM (#23135396)
    Here's the link: []

    I thought it was interesting then. It's also important to point out, Anne Wojcicki's husband's name is Sergey Brin. Having access to massive amounts of computing power makes sense for a genetics company.
  • by nathan_w_cheng ( 700551 ) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @02:14PM (#23135542) Homepage
    I recently attended a legal studies lecture in which the professor (a lawyer) asserted that if any of us were to participate in such a program and any disease or predisposition for disease were discovered, that we would be legally obligated to make this known to any potential medical insurers the next time we apply for medical insurance. According to this lawyer, failure to disclose in this manner would result in annulment of the insurance should the failure be discovered.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 20, 2008 @02:23PM (#23135580)
    conflict of interest.
  • by chooks ( 71012 ) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @02:53PM (#23135784)

    The New England Journal of Medicine actually had an interesting article about direct-to-consumer genetic testing (Jan 10, 2008 [] -- sorry not a free link (unless you can get it through your institution)). Three main points it makes is that

    1. There are questions regarding quality control and transparency. Due to the numbers involved, even small percentage mistakes in sequencing can add up and give wrong information.
    2. What is the clinical validity of the sequence such that it can accurately predict the disease? Lack of a sequence may give a false sense of security, and presence of a sequence may cause unnecessary harm.
    3. What can you do clinically given the answers? There is little observational or clinical data for how the genetic information can be used effectively, especially for low penetrant conditions.

    Clearly, there are disease where knowing ones gene status is very helpful (e.g. BRCA1/2, MEN1/2A/2B, etc...) but many disease we are just in the infancy of determining their genetic basis. The article sums things up like this:

    So what advice should a physician offer patients? For the patient who appears with a genome map and printouts of risk estimates in hand, a general statement about the poor sensitivity and positive predictive value of such results is appropriate, but a detailed consumer report may be beyond most physicians' skill sets. For the patient asking whether these services provide information that is useful for disease avoidance, the prudent answer is "Not now -- ask again in a few years." More information is needed on the clinical utility of this information in the light of existing disease-specific opportunities for prevention or early detection and the potential value that genomic profiles can add to that of simpler tools, such as the family health history. Finally, given the risk of commercial exploitation, if patients are determined to proceed, perhaps because they are simply curious, are genetic hobbyists, or are "early adopters" of new technology, it would make sense to encourage them to enroll in formal scientific studies.
  • by dookiesan ( 600840 ) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @06:11PM (#23137040)
    These are nice theories but I have a simpler one. The founder of 23andMe is wife of one of the google founders (so I heard).
  • Don't trust everything your professors (or lawyers) tell you.

    A genetic predisposition for a disease in a currently healthy individual is not the same as having the disease. According to HIPAA [], genetic information in the absence of a current diagnosis of illness does not constitute a pre-existing condition.

    But HIPAA [] is just the beginning of genetic information protection. The real deal is something called GINA: Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) [], which recently passed in the U.S. Congress and is pending in the Senate. President Bush has openly supported this bill. So it has some decent momentum.

    Further reading: Navigenics provides some good resources [] about legal rights regarding the use of your genetic information, and there was a good article in the Boston Globe [] on this in Sep 2007.

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