Monday, July 13, 2009

23andMe Research Revolution

Last week personal genomics giant 23andMe launched Research Revolution, a new project aiming to recruit 1000 study participants for each of ten complex diseases, including Migraines, Psoriasis, several cancers, and autoimmune diseases. We know that with only 1000 samples these studies don't have much of a shot at finding something new that other studies with several times as many samples may have missed, especially given that phenotyping is being done via online health questionnaires.

Still, it's worth keeping an eye on the new "democratizing research" approach that 23andMe is taking. Current 23andMe customers are invited to participate in any of these research projects, and their enrollment counts as a "vote" towards starting a research project on that particular phenotype. They're also offering a basic version of their personal genome services for $99 for new customers interested in participating. Daniel MacArthur at Genetic Future wrote an interesting piece on 23andMe's latest venture - an article definitely worth reading, and the comments also. In it he suggests that
...academics need to take heed of the model the company is pursuing. It's likely that over the next few years the current model for returning research data to participants - i.e. don't - will become increasingly unpopular with potential research subjects, and indeed I'd argue that this model has always bordered on the unethical. Finding realistic ways of presenting large-scale genetic data to research participants is something that academic researchers will need to sort out soon, one way or another - and those that do it well, I suspect, will find it much easier to recruit and maintain their research cohorts.


Keep an eye out here for more news on the personal genomics scene.

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Getting Genetics Done by Stephen Turner is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.