Miscalibrated Internet Receptor Stalks

A geneticist's take on 23andMe

You may have heard that personal genetics company 23andMe has run afoul of the FDA. You might even remember that I have used 23andMe. Over on his blog, UC Berkeley Professor of Genetics, Genomics, and Development Daniel Rokhsar weighs in with his thoughts.

I sent in my saliva and viewed the results in the way he suggests:

Any customer who signs, and hopefully reads, the disclaimers on the 23andMe website should appreciate that the reports are only a step or two beyond recreational genomics, to be taken with a shaker of salt.


But he adds:

I, for one, was impressed with the company's effort to educate customers about our limited ability to interpret genetic data. But 23andMe didn't need to convince me. It needed to convince the FDA.

Here's his point:

Awareness of one's genome can help people learn the ins and outs of genetics, and may even become better-educated medical consumers. But common sense must be used and caveats understood when dealing with uncertainty and risk. A low risk estimate isn't carte blanche to skip your annual checkup...

Even though 23andMe stopped providing its health reports until the FDA is satisfied, they do still provide the highly accurate raw A's, C's, G's and T's, which third party sites—presumably not subject to FDA regulation—can interpret...

It would be a shame if its problems with the FDA were to poison the direct-to-consumer genetics movement and deprive consumers of a cheap and simple way to access that information. Hopefully it's not too late.


You can read the whole thing here.

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