2008 November

Consumer Genetics Show 2009 in Boston

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted November 19, 2008 in Business of DNA, DNA Testing

dna string Here’s where most of my fellow DNA Network members would surely like to be next summer – the First Annual Consumer Genetics Show at the Hynes Convention Center from June 9-11, 2009.

Speakers include:

Show objectives include:

  • Regulatory issues
  • Intellectual property considerations
  • Interaction between biotechnology, molecular diagnostic, and pharmaceutical markets
  • Role of physicians in helping patients interpret results from direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic tests
  • Effect of DTC market on molecular diagnostic laboratories
  • Patient and consumer security (Blaine at The Genetic Genealogist recently wrote about security at Navigenics and 23andMe)
  • Public relations and business strategies to optimize public perceptions of DTC genetic testing (given persistent negative opinions issued by various experts and professional societies)

Are you planning to attend?

Photo credit: Pieter Musterd



Rule of Thumb on Speeches About Science

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted November 18, 2008 in DNA in General

When giving a public science lecture to a general audience, there will always be one weirdo who asks questions that have nothing to do with your lecture. There will also be one smart-aleck who asks questions to show how smart he is. The faster you silence both of them, the happier your audience will be.

~Submitted by: Jeff Brown, astronomer, Bloomington, Indiana

Which one are you? The weirdo or the smart-aleck?

via Rules of Thumb

(1 comment)


Analysts Say deCODE Genetics Headed for Bankruptcy Court

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted November 13, 2008 in Business of DNA

deCODE’s problems should not be any surprise to those following Iceland’s massive financial crisis. Morningstar’s Matthew Coffina has now listed deCODE stock as one of five that “look completely worthless.”

deCODE Genetics (DCGN)

From the Analyst Report: “DeCODE Genetics engages in some provocative research projects…. However, the company has yet to gain approval from the Food and Drug Administration for any of its products, and it is currently facing a severe liquidity crisis. It appears more likely to us that deCODE might no longer be a viable entity.”

via Genealogy-DNA-L



Genetically Engineered HTC Touch Diamond Phone

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted November 12, 2008 in In Your DNA

Fantastic! A phone “genetically engineered for your thumbs.” I’d like one genetically engineered for my brain, please. :D

htc genetic engineering

(>> Start a discussion!)


Putting Your DNA To Use In Bad Economic Times

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted November 10, 2008 in DNA in General

An email I just received:

i looked briefly at your site and i was wondering if this is really true and i can donate my dna for money. please email me back and let me know if thats the case and how i can go about doing this. times are very rough now days and im willing to be a guinea pig if i can get help i need.

It can’t be THAT bad yet, can it?



Singapore Company DNA Dynasty Will (Not) Tell Your Children’s Future

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted November 8, 2008 in Business of DNA, DNA in General

No matter what they say, DNA Dynasty will not and cannot tell you what your “kids (sic) innate talent” is via “DNA discovery.”

National Society of Genetic Counselors President Angela Trepanier would agree. From her interview with Karen Kaplan of the Los Angeles Times:

Should DNA tests be used to test for traits like intelligence, athletic aptitude or artistic talent?

I would not use DNA tests for any of those reasons. All of these traits develop as a result of genetic and environmental factors. So for instance, even if a person has a low genetic aptitude for music, if her parents routinely play music in the house, send her to lessons, take her to concerts, and she is a highly motivated person who does what it takes to accomplish her goals, she may become a concert pianist despite her genetic makeup.

I would not want to use information in any way that could pigeonhole a person’s potential or desires or prevent them from having the same opportunities that others have, and I think that genetic tests for these types of traits could do that.

By the way, doesn’t their company logo look awfully familiar? That’s right, it’s the same “DNA in a test tube” design that Ricardo Vidal made especially for The DNA Network.

dna dynasty stolen logo

For more opinions on DNA Dynasty, see:

Update: DNA Dynasty has removed the DNA Network logo from their homepage.



Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD): A Discussion

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted November 6, 2008 in DNA and Disease

This past April, I participated in a vodcast with Dr. Chris Korey of the College of Charleston and students in his Molecular Biology Lab. We talked about the science and ethics behind direct-to-consumer genetic testing. While I’m not too pleased with the way I looked while heavily pregnant (eek!), we had a great conversation and I was impressed with the students’ enthusiasm and thoughtfulness.

This month, Dr. Misha Angrist is the guest participant and he’s hosting a discussion on preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), selection and disability on his blog, Genomeboy. I hope you’ll join the students in conversation there.

For more information on PGD, please see these previous posts here at Eye on DNA:

(>> Start a discussion!)


Family History of Disease Scares Parents More Than Genetic Test Results

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted November 6, 2008 in DNA Testing, DNA and Disease

image Should parents purchase direct-to-consumer genetic tests for their under-age children? Joanna Mountain, Senior Director of Research at 23andMe, chose to do so for her two sons and found it to be a positive experience overall (of course!). I have not done so for my two children and haven’t even done so for myself. Just call me chicken.

In a timely study published in the November issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, researchers at the University of Michigan CS Mott Children’s Hospital staged a hypothetical situation and randomized over 1,300 parents to receive hypothetical genetic risk assessments framed as family history or genetic test results. They found that parents were actually more worried if they had observable, tangible evidence of a family history of disease than if the results were purely based on genetic tests.

So it seems that nothing strikes fear into our hearts more than knowing that a family member is ill and that we may also have inherited an increased susceptibility to the illness. While genes may be floating around in our consciousness, they remain an abstract concept that most of us are not able to include in our daily risk analyses.

NB: Daniel MacArthur at Genetic Future has more on genome scans for the whole family although he considers it mainly from a business perspective than from one as a parents since he isn’t one yet.

via Los Angeles Times

Photo credit: Wellcome Images



How Many Ways Can A Physician Be Sued (Over Genetic Tests)?

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted November 4, 2008 in DNA Testing, DNA and the Law

gavelAmerican Medical News counts the ways in Judging genetic risks: Physicians often caught between what patients want and what science offers.

  1. Wrongful Birth/Life – Patients may sue physicians for not providing enough genetic testing or giving false negative test results.
  2. Pharmacogenomics – Patients may sue doctors for not ordering genetic testing before prescribing certain medications, such as Coumadin (warfarin)
  3. Negligent Medical Advice – Patients may sue a doctor who does not warn them of shared familial genetic risk of disease. Judges in a 2004 Minnesota Supreme Court case ruled that physicians had a duty to both patients and their biological family members to inform of them of genetic testing and diagnosis.
  4. Personal Beliefs Over Patient Rights – Physicians may not be able to claim “right-of-conscience” when it comes to denying patients genetic testing on the grounds of religious or moral beliefs.

Patients should also keep in mind that their physician may not be well-versed in genetics and is most probably not up-to-speed on the latest available genetic tests. Considering the complexity of genetics, can we expect busy doctors to keep abreast of the field? Perhaps one solution is to increase the number of genetic counselors available and making their services affordable and commonplace. On second thought, isn’t that what some direct-to-consumer genetic testing companies are aiming to do?

*Yes, I am affiliated with DNA Direct that offers pre- and post-test education and expert consultation on genetic tests.

Photo credit: Joe Gratz



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