Several millionaires are said to be queuing up for a new service that will provide details of a person's entire genetic code within a week - for a mere £400,000.
Craig Venter, former head of Celera, the US Company that produced a draft version of the human genome in February 2001, said that he will soon be able to provide an individual with their entire genome on a CD. But the new service, which should be available later this year, has been met with scepticism by other scientists. Dr Tim Hubbard, head of human genome research at the Sanger Institute in Cambridge, likened the new venture to the Russians sending tourists into space - 'fun for those who can afford it, but it is just a good gimmick.'
UK biotech firm Solexa also plans to offer new services providing personal genetic information. Using a quicker and cheaper technique, Solexa's eventual aim is to decode a person's entire genome in 24 hours, for just £562. But initially, the company plans to examine genetic differences associated with diseases such as cancer and diabetes. Chief executive officer, Nick McCooke, says such information could potentially improve human health, but must be interpreted properly by a health professional.
The pressure group Genewatch UK says there is an urgent need for better monitoring of such genetic testing. Deputy director Dr Helen Wallace called for regulation to check whether tests were valid or useful before they were marketed.