Feeds

US watchdogs threaten vanity gene testers

Crack down on DNA crackers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

The new market in personal genetics, Silicon Valley venture capitalists' latest great hope, is facing regulatory scrutiny from authorities concerned about a "wild west" approach to extremely sensitive information.

About a dozen young companies, including 23andme, the startup backed by Google (and founded by Sergey Brin's wife), purport to offer insight into their customers' risk of developing various conditions by testing for gene variants. A simple cheek scrape or saliva sample is all that's required to tell you great things about your genetic inheritance and medical future, or so the marketing goes.

However, companies offering diagnostic services are tightly controlled in many states, and New York's Department of Health has written to several personal genetics firms threatening legal action. The department insists they must have a permit to test New York residents.

23andme is trying to avoid regulation by claiming its tests are not about disease. A spokesman told Forbes: "23andMe's services are not medical... they are educational."

"Frankly, it blows my mind that someone would be saying that looking at whether you are going to get multiple sclerosis is recreational," replied a New York official. He said 23andme will be referred to prosecutors if it continues to violate the law.

California is also investigating 12 complaints against unnamed personal genetics outfits. State law there says all genetic tests must be ordered by a licensed doctor.

23andme's website does not make any medical claims, but the report received by consumers who cough the $1,000 fee includes data on genes associated with heart disease, various cancers, and bowel disorders.

One worry is that the screening offered by personal genetics companies are by no means comprehensive. As well as filling doctors' offices with even more of the "worried well", the pick-n-mix approach adopted by personal genetics firms could mean those with a family history of cancer are misled into believing they have escaped inheriting a deadly gene.

It seems regulators are slowly waking up to the new questions posed by the collision of the web, data harvesting, and cheap biotechnology.

Last week, two prominent doctors called for laws to tackle Google and Microsoft's ongoing landgrab in the US patient records market. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
SCREW YOU, Russia! NASA lobs $6.8bn at Boeing AND SpaceX to run space station taxis
Musk charging nearly half as much as Boeing for crew trips
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight
Our US allies to probe potential Vulture 2 servo freeze
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
India's MOM Mars mission makes final course correction
Mangalyaan probe will feel the burn of orbital insertion on September 24th
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.