Feeds

US watchdogs threaten vanity gene testers

Crack down on DNA crackers

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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. ®

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
FORGET the CLIMATE: FATTIES are a MUCH BIGGER problem - study
Fat guy? Drink or smoke? You're worse than a TERRORIST
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
Rosetta probot drilling DENIED: Philae has its 'LEG in the AIR'
NOT best position for scientific fulfillment
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
HUMAN DNA 'will be FOUND ON MOON' – rocking boffin Brian Cox
Crowdfund plan to stimulate Blighty's space programme
Post-pub nosh neckfiller: The MIGHTY Scotch egg
Off to the boozer? This delicacy might help mitigate the effects
I'M SO SORRY, sobs Rosetta Brit boffin in 'sexist' sexy shirt storm
'He is just being himself' says proud mum of larger-than-life physicist
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
LIFE, JIM? Comet probot lander found 'ORGANICS' on far-off iceball
That's it for God, then – if Comet 67P has got complex molecules
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Internet Security Threat Report 2014
An overview and analysis of the year in global threat activity: identify, analyze, and provide commentary on emerging trends in the dynamic threat landscape.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.