Genetic Future

Personal genomics links of note

Several articles with a personal genomics theme popped up today.

Most importantly, this piece in the Times by Mark Henderson is a superb analysis of the current state and likely future of the personal genomics industry, and a must-read for anyone interested in the field.
Henderson notes that despite the turmoil in the industry in 2009, it’s still unclear which of the disparate models adopted by competitors in the industry (e.g. 23andMe’s curiosity-driven “genomics is fun” approach, or Navigenics’ sombre, paternalistic, health-focused image) will prove the most successful in the long run:

The success or failure of these competing visions will do much to determine the patient experience of the genetic age, and whether direct-to-consumer genomics becomes more than a passing phase. Will we take control of our DNA as individuals, to explore our inheritance, to meet new friends and relatives, and to participate in research? Or will DNA become just another kind of routine medical information, such as cholesterol or blood pressure, which we get through a GP? A lot will depend on which model proves more popular.

The article contains plenty of juicy detail, so go read it all.
Henderson also has two other articles out today that are well worth checking out: a piece exploring the implications of David Goldstein’s recent prediction in Nature that genetic research findings will “substantially increase interest in embryonic and other screening programmes”; and another brief piece on growing concerns about the privacy of personal genomic data.
In New Scientist, Peter Aldhous reviews Francis Collins’ new book on personalised medicine, taking issue with Collins’ more vague descriptions of the benefits of personalising treatment and describing the NIH head as “a cheerleader for a revolution that hasn’t arrived quite yet”. 
Finally, Genomics Law Report’s Dan Vorhaus asks five questions for personal genomics in 2010 – and nails several of the key areas yet to be resolved as the industry stumbles into its third year, under an economic cloud and facing tremendous financial and regulatory uncertainty.

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  1. #1 Steven Murphy MD
    January 7, 2010

    I don’t think any of these will win. In the end software crunching base pairs and associating them with disease will be a tool like an EKG. Is Welch Allyn doing ok? Why? They make multiple tools, not just one. More importantly, I imagine this entire industry will be broken up by someone who will do this as open source. Face it, the academic scientists could merge with computer scientists at big academic centers or hell even the US and UK Gov’t could crush these little companies…

    Don’t believe me? Did you see Medicare’s new PHR? Have you seen the HITECH portion of the US recovery act. It says….”PHR use for all US citizens by 2014″ I imagine, if anyone has the technology to crunch and interpret, the government does…..and has the most to benefit from this.

    Why do you think Francis is where he IS…..


  2. #2 Daniel MacArthur
    January 8, 2010


    If there are companies in existence that have developed systems for storing, analysing and presenting complex genetic data to lay-people, it will be extremely attractive for hospitals and governments to buy these systems rather than develop them internally. But that market doesn’t exist yet, so how should a company who wants a piece of that action carve out its niche in preparation for the change? By offering whatever personal genomics services are currently available.

    Maybe all of the current personal genomics companies will fall by the wayside before the real era of personalised medicine dawns; but if they can survive that long, then whoever is on top of the heap stands to inherit a pretty lucrative slice of a massive market.

  3. #3 Andres Kabel
    January 9, 2010

    What a fascinating post, bringing to the attention of this stumbling layman a swag of great articles. Yours is one of the few genetics blogs I check with regularity – many thanks!

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