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Special offer for 'genome scan' customers willing to participate in research

26 July 2009
Appeared in BioNews 518

Personal 'genome scans' have been in the news again, not because they are a particularly new phenomenon but because the data they provide may soon take on a new significance. Up until now, genetic tests looking for variations associated with diseases have been available over the Internet for those who have been willing to pay the fee - usually a few hundred dollars.

Now, US company 23andMe has just launched a new home DNA test for $99 that is being marketed as part of a 'Research Revolution'. The key difference between this DNA test and others is that it is only available to participants who allow both the genetic data collected and the health data they report to be used by researchers investigating the occurrence of different diseases. However, 23andMe are not the first company to use this new approach to DNA testing, as last month TruGenetics, a Seattle based company, launched a test where the first 10,000 participants to sign up got DNA tests for free.

The two companies are using different business models, as TruGenetics has suggested that it hopes to be able to collect enough data to charge researchers access to their database. Alternatively, 23andMe have talked about the possibility of charging a fee for introducing researchers to the volunteers. Both of their models rely on the successful rate at which they can recruit volunteers to donate the necessary information.

When accessing the 23andMe site the drive for participants is evident and 'The Race to 1000' encourages volunteers to provide information on both an altruistic and self interested level. A list of 10 diseases, headed by migraines, has a tally on how many more migraine sufferers must participate before the research can begin.

Companies providing tests of this type have been criticised for offering the service prematurely, since much remains to be discovered about the genetic influences on common diseases. It has also been suggested that they would be more profitable if they collected data, rather than selling DNA tests. But there are still questions regarding the reliability of the health data and the number of volunteers needed to make the resource a viable alternative. However, these movements suggest that companies such as 23andMe could pioneer a shift in the methods and models used to collect data for genetic research.

15 June 2009 - by Adam Fletcher 
The age of affordable genome sequencing is inching ever closer, spurred on last week by the announcement that San Diego biotech firm Illumina is launching its personal sequencing service for under $50,000. Speaking at the Consumer Genetics Show in Boston, Massachusetts, US, Jay Flatley - the president and CEO of Illumina - unveiled a service that represents the first time that an individual's genome can be sequenced so thoroughly, for such a (relatively) low price....
15 September 2008 - by Ailsa Stevens 
BioNews reporting from the British Society for Human Genetics (BSHG) annual conference in York:By Ailsa Taylor: Clinical trials are urgently needed to validate the increasing number of experimental genetic tests available for assessing an individual's risk of developing serious common diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer...
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