Consumer driven genetic testing

Naomi Freundlich. Genetic Predictions: Just a Swab Away. New York Times. March 21 2004.

"Genetic testing and counseling, of course, have been available for many years. Doctors may decide to screen patients for various genetic disorders, like Tay-Sachs disease, based on a family’s medical history. But Genelex’s drug metabolism test branches into something new: genetic tests initiated by the consumer. The medical profession is still divided, however, over whether such tests are always a healthy idea."

"The tests aim to capitalize on the desire to harness the vast amount of information emerging from the recently completed Human Genome Project. The project, publicly financed, has provided scientists with a list of the more than 30,000 human genes. Now the race is on to figure out how slight variations in these genes can affect an individual’s future health - how they might make people more prone to heart disease or cancer, for example. Preliminary data about such connections is building, and some companies have decided to act early and provide this kind of lifestyle risk information to curious consumers."

Read the whole article.

Several of the companies mentioned:
Genova Diagnostics
DNA Direct, Inc.

Genomic Harvest: Part III

The third of ten articles by Malorye A. Branca on "how genomics technologies are transforming drug discovery" is on Merck.

Hood on Predictive Medicine

"My prediction is we will have predictive medicine in the next 10 to 15 years," said Hood, co-founder and president of the Institute for Systems Biology (ISB). "There are really two dimensions to this. First, if we can do your genome, we’ll look at your genes and write up your probabilistic health history.

"Second, the blood is a wonderful window that gives you a view of how environmental perturbations interacted upon the individual. I think in 7 to 10 years, we’ll be able to use microfluidic approaches and have a little handheld device that takes a small droplet of blood from your thumb and analyzes 10,000 elements in it, and then be able to distinguish between health and disease."

John Russell, Lee Hood Highlights MIT Meeting, Bio-IT World. Feb 19 2004.

Newly Designed GenInfo Newsletter

HumGen has published another informative issue of the GenInfo newsletter.

Any chicken in those nuggets? New commercial application for DNA microarrays

"HAS your chicken been bulked up with beef or pork extracts? Is that expensive albacore tuna really cheap skipjack tuna? Did rats, mice or even bits of people fall into the mincer when your burger was being made? And are unscrupulous companies risking spreading mad cow disease by adding beef to cattle feed?
All these questions can now be answered by a single test that reveals the presence of meat from any of 32 different species in food samples.

The test, based on a DNA chip, is being evaluated by food regulatory authorities in Europe, and could also be used by supermarkets and food companies to check on their suppliers.

"The beauty of this is that you can scan for so many things at once," says Thomas Schlumberger, director of clinical genetics at Affymetrix in California, which developed the "FoodExpert-ID" chip together with bioMérieux of France."

Andy Coghlan, DNA chip will catch beefed up chicken, New Scientist. 6 March 2004

(Thanks to Kristofer Hallen for the pointer)

Genovoxx’s AnyGene

"In the ever-growing field of new DNA sequencing methods, it’s a single-molecule world…One of the latest contenders is Lübeck, Germany-based Genovoxx’s AnyGene™ method, in which DNA fragments deposited on a two-dimensional array are subjected to sequencing-by-synthesis. Labeled nucleotides become incorporated one at a time into each strand, and the resulting fluorescence read by a detector reveals the identity of each base. Because sequencing is performed on high-density arrays, a large number of fragments can be sequenced in parallel."

Aileen Constans, Towards the $1000 Genome, Redux. The Scientist. Feb 16 2004. (free registration required)

Genovoxx has a description, with pictures, of this methodology here.


Genomic Harvest: Part II

The second of ten articles by Malorye A. Branca on "how genomics technologies are transforming drug discovery" is based on an interview with Allen Roses of GlaxoSmithKline.  The first was based on an interview with Philip Vickers, Executive Director of Genomic and Proteomic Sciences, Pfizer Global R&D (see my post here).

Fuqua Pushes Natl Health Info Network

"Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business on Tuesday announced it is launching an initiative to gain widespread consumer support for a national electronic health information network.

The goal of the initiative, named the Health Data Exchange, is to improve the quality of health care while reducing costs, said Kevin Schulman, M.D., director of the Health Sector Management program at Fuqua.

The initiative represents a new approach to the development of an electronic health information network.

"Instead of focusing initially on the technology — a ‘build it and they will come’ approach — we have outlined a consumer-first strategy," Schulman said. "Through public outreach and education, Health Data Exchange plans to build consumer understanding and acceptance of a national health network as well as strong motivation to participate in the exchange via voluntary submission of personal health information."

A national electronic health information network would make patient medical information available online to medical providers, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies and other segments of the health care industry. Patients would provide their medical histories to the network through an Internet site. Updates to each patient’s medical records would occur automatically each time the patient seeks medical care or fills a prescription.

Although several groups would have access to anonymous medical histories, only those with specific authorization from individual patients would be able to access a patient’s medical record with his or her name attached."

Read the whole press release here.

NPR on Genetic Testing

"Each year, doctors are armed with more genetic tests that can tell which people are vulnerable to what diseases. There are already genetic tests that can spell out an individual’s risk of breast cancer, Huntington’s disease or cystic fibrosis.  But making the decision to learn one’s genetic heritage is complex.  In a series of interviews, NPR’s Joe Palca talks with people who have faced a decision to find out about their genes."

Joe Palca. Reading Genes for Disease: Tests Reveal Answers that Can Offer Relief, or Despair. NPR. Feb 22 2004.

Genetic Family Tree

"In what could be the modest beginnings of a worldwide genetic family tree, a Utah genealogy foundation has created an interactive database of genetic and genealogical samples [...] The Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation, established by Utah billionaire James Sorenson, has created a free Web site that allows interested members of the public to input their own DNA information into an existing database."

Project Uses Web for DNA Family Trees, Yahoo! News, Feb 29 2004.

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