What about the less obvious errors?

The New Scientist points out a case of genotyping error by one of the consumer genomics companies, where a software bug caused a genotype to appear non-human. The article attempts to be reassuring: Before other deCODEme customers get too irate about errors in data for which they have paid almost $1000, the bug affects only a tiny portion of the results presented. Most importantly, the disease-risk summaries provided by deCODEme seem to be based on the correct genetic information. “seem to be” is the operative terminology, indeed. As is typical in security / quality-control settings, the question here is, if … Continue reading What about the less obvious errors?

Owning Genes

At some point in the history of patents, something went a little nutty: it became possible to patent genes themselves. Not “a method for extracting” a gene. Not “a method for synthesizing” a gene. But the gene itself. As a result, a number of biotech companies own human genes. If you want to find out if you have a dangerous mutation that predisposes you to breast cancer, no matter which lab you choose, no matter which technology they use to test you, they have to pay a royalty fee to the gene patent holder. One can have a number of … Continue reading Owning Genes

Pinker on Personal Genomics

As some folks know, I’ve spent the majority of my time over the last 1.5 year as a member of the Faculty at Harvard Medical School in the Informatics group, thinking about security and privacy of web platforms for managing personal health data, including genomic data. I’ve had trouble blogging about it, because I’m still learning quite a bit and it’s difficult to know where to start. But now I don’t have to do an introductory post, because Steven Pinker did it already in the NY Times, much more beautifully and informatively than I could ever have done. If you’re … Continue reading Pinker on Personal Genomics

Genomic Records & Voting

So part of my research is on voting. And another part is on the privacy of genomic medical records (which, admittedly, I haven’t spoken about much on this blog yet). It’s not often that I find an article that combines both. But I guess it was inevitable: In the coming era of personal genomics — when we all can decode our genes cheaply and easily — political candidates may be pressed to disclose their own DNA, like tax returns or lists of campaign contributors, as voters seek new ways to weigh a leader’s medical and mental fitness for public office. … Continue reading Genomic Records & Voting