DNA Direct Offers Genetic Testing Direct to Consumer

San Francisco based DNA Direct began offering genetic testing services direct to consumer (DTC) in early October.  You may remember that DNA Direct was introduced on this blog back in March, in reference to a New York Times article on DTC genetic testing.   

Currently DNA Direct offers genetic testing services for inherited blood clotting disorders and plans to offer testing services for other conditions in the future. 

Here is a summary of the testing process (see here), as outlined on their excellent webpage:  The decision to test is made by a medical consumer, perhaps with the aid of a risk assessment questionnaire offered free on their website.  A cheek swab kit is mailed to the person, swabbing ensues, and the kit is mailed to a lab for analysis.  A ten chapter personal report is made available via the web.  It contains the results of the test and descriptions of how to understand the results in relation to risks, lifestyle, family, and healthcare.  DNA Direct also provides genetic counseling services over the phone.

In a recent press release, CEO Ryan Phelan discusses her motivation for founding DNA Direct:

“At DNA Direct, we believe that testing is about empowerment - your body and your health are ultimately your responsibility, and your genes offer tremendous insight into personal, medical and lifestyle choices…Genes are a valuable part of the equation, and they must be interpreted in context and in privacy. We have set up a unique service that does just that – while providing individuals with knowledge and insight to take control of their personal health.”

DNA Direct

DNA Direct, "Lifestyle & Heredity: Genetic Test Helps Individuals Evaluate and Reduce Blood Clot Risk", Yahoo! Oct 13, 2004.

Naomi Freundlich, "Genetic Predictions: Just a Swab Away." NYT March 21, 2004.

GeneClinics: Factor V Leiden Thrombophilia

KU Medical Center: Factor V Leiden Thrombophilia

German Job Applicants: Genetic Testing in Your Future?

The British Medical Journal is reporting that there is draft legislation in Germany that some fear will enable genetic testing of job applicants for hereditary diseases.  This fear was raised by Spiro Simitis, head of the  German National Ethics Council, in a recent der Spiegel article.  Attention is focused on one clause in this piece of legislation [as translated by BMJ]:

"genetic examinations at the level of phenotypes will be allowed in as far as they permit an assessment of the [applicant’s] current suitability for a certain type of job."

How big of a net does "current suitability for a certain type of job" cast?  Not so big that it includes testing for hereditary diseases, but big enough that it includes testing, say, bus drivers for color blindess, according to one government official.

Jane Burgermeister, "Germany may allow employers to introduce gene tests for job seekers."  BMJ October 23, 2004.

German National Ethics Council can be found here.

Anonymous. "Gesetzentwurf ermöglicht Gentest für Job-Suchende" der Spiegel. October 9, 2004. [see Babelfish for translation]

$100k Genome and $1k Genome Grants

The National Human Genome Research Institute has awarded nearly $40 million in grants for technology that promises to bring down the costs of genome sequencing.  See press release here.  I’ll post more details about individual grant winners over the next week or two.

Genes VIII and Open Access

Benjamin Lewin’s newest addition of Genes VIII, a widely used textbook on molecular genetics, has adopted a policy of only citing articles that are reasonably easy for readers to access.  Here is the policy statement from Lewin’s book:

A word is in order about the choice of references. With widespread adoption of policies that allow free access to material after a reasonable delay, the advantages to the scientific community for transparency in access have been made abundantly clear. In these circumstances, I do not regard publications in journals that neither adopt this policy nor are widely available (often because they are unreasonably expensive) as legitimate contributions to the scientific literature. I see no point in citing publications to which many readers will not have access.

Even though this policy clearly targets readers who are university students or other scientists, it also benefits members of the lay public that research matters of their own health.  Please see the post at Peter Suber’s Open Access News blog for more information.

Interview with George Church on Personal Genomics

Marc Strassman of Etopia Media Medical News has posted a wide-ranging interview with Harvard scientist George Church about personal genomics.  A fantastic resource.  Highly recommended!  Download interview here (15.5 MB .wma file).

The interviewer Marc Strassman filed the report on the CUVIGS initiative, Californians for Universal Voluntary Individual Genome Sequencing, I posted about here.

Transition to Clinical Utility

In an attempt to mirror the movement of genomic technologies from the scientific bench to the medical bedside, the editors of the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings recently announced that they would be transitioning their series of educational articles on medical genomics to a new format which places a greater emphasis on clinical utility:

No one doubts the monumental impact on human health and disease from both the genome project and the unprecedented advances in biotechnology. At the same time, however, it will be some time before human disease in a given patient is sequentially forecasted, prevented, and treated according to genomic profiles. Similarly, clinicians often ask how the current hype in genomics-genetics relates to their day-to-day clinical practice. It is under this premise that the editorial staff of Mayo Clinic Proceedings is pleased to announce the continuation of the Medical Genomics series in the journal with a new and more practical symposium entitled Genetic Test Indications and Interpretations. The new series is scheduled to start in January 2005 and will have a specific disease-oriented approach that demonstrates the transition of technology to clinical utility.

The former series of articles was entitled “Primer on Medical Genomics.” A description of these articles can be found here.

Burrill, Sciona, and Genaissance

From a business wire:

Burrill & Company announced today their investment in Sciona, Inc. Sciona is the leading company in the field of consumer-oriented genetic diagnostics. Based on the latest scientific research, Sciona has created a genetic diagnostic panel that enables manufacturers to customize personal care and nutrition products based on a person’s genetic makeup. Sciona is currently located in Cambridge, UK, but plans to relocate to New Haven, Connecticut, to be nearer to strategic partner and equity stakeholder, Genaissance, Inc.

No comment yet. Just watching.