Video Round-up: Esther Dyson on Charlie Rose, Spencer Wells on Colbert, and important video I can’t show you on genetic discrimination

Esther Dyson was interviewed on the Charlie Rose Show this past week. Charlie Rose ends the show by saying to Esther, “I can’t wait to see your genome”. I think this is the first time I’ve ever witnessed this expression being used like this — said with such endearment too! — but I’m sure it won’t be the last. (A google search for this phrase shows zero results at the time this post was written.)

The first twenty minutes of the show are mostly about Esther’s involvement in the Personal Genome Project (PGP) [disclosure: I work for the PGP]. The discussion doesn’t stop at genomes or health; the rest of the show ventures into the future of commercial space travel, the internet, cookie monsters, personalized search, AI and more. Esther never ceases to inform and inspire me, and challenge the way I think. I’m so glad she is among the folks that will be pioneering personal genomics for the rest of us via the PGP. Check it out:

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Genetic Ancestry of IBMers

Around 9000 employees of IBM have contributed to the Genographic Project and to showcase this effort, they have built a website describing the ancestral diversity of a several employees with different haplotypes.  Their podcast "IBM and the Future of…" has a an episode on the Genographic Project featuring anthropologist Spencer Wells and computational biologist Ajay Royyuru. 

How many DNA kits have they sold?  According to Spencer Wells, they have sold 67,000 kits as of the podcast (which was published October 7, 2005).

My Genographic Project Results

The migratory route of my deep ancestors:


A depiction of my Y-chromosome showing the short-tandem repeats that were tested:


More information on the Genographic Project.

Critics Circle: Genographic Project

First crop of critics of the Genographic Project have emerged.  Here is an overview:

  1. involving the public may not be useful, involving the public is expensive, the volume of respondents may be surprisingly high (Andrew Paterson, a scientist at the genetics and genomic biology group at the Sick Kids Research Institute)
  2. control over sample collection is weak, self-reporting is often inaccurate, look-out for contamination of samples (Steven Scherer, senior scientist at the genetics and genomic biology group at the Sick Kids Research Institute)
  3. should have gone the extra mile and made a biobank of the DNA samples (Kenneth K. Kidd, professor of genetics and psychiatry at Yale Med)
  4. should have used DNA Genotek’s Oragene kit rather than buccal swabs (company CEO Ian Curry)

Sarah Lysecki. "National Geographic’s DNA database raises doubts", 4/18/2005.

Update 4/21/05

The Indigenous Peoples Council on Biocolonialism objects to the Genographic Project and Spencer Wells responds.

Genographic Video


See here.

The Genographic Project

Migration_pattern_1My father spent several years tracing our family’s history back several hundred years.  Beyond that the paper trail begins to break down.  The most distant information he was able to find dates to the 15th century.  Not bad.  But I can beat it. For $100 National Geographic will put my family on the map of human migration patterns and tell me about my earliest human ancestors.  Its called the The Genographic Project and is being supported by National Geographic, IBM, and the Waitt Family Foundation.  Geneticist/Anthropologist Spencer Wells is the lead investigator of the project. 


My Genographic Project results

The Genographic Project Homepage

Spencer Wells, The Journey Of Man: A Genetic Odyssey. Random House, 2004.

Salvatore Salamone ‘Genographic Project’ to Track Human Migration, Bio-IT World, April 13 2005.

Carl Zimmer, Humanity’s Map, The Loom, April 13 2005.

DNA project to trace human steps, BBC April 13 2005.

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.