Human DNA has officially become a commodity, with the world’s largest database of genetic code 23andMe acting as the “new frontier” for pioneering drugmakers.
Recently a British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline acquired a $300 million share in the genlogy company, which guarantees to tell you your ancestry in exchange for your DNA.
This “merger” of the two companies will expedite the development of “novel treatments and cures,” GSK’s CEO wrote in a blog post.
23andMe customers’ genetic blueprints will now be used in research that will allow GSK to get new drugs licensed and to market faster, the company said in a press release.
Current records state that 80% of 23andMe clients opt to share their genetic data as well as undergo a survey about their lifestyle and health status, for research purposes,
Close to 5 million people so far have submitted a saliva sample in exchange for an opportunity to receive healthcare and ancestry insights.
There are two packages on offer: Ancestry Service, and the Health + Ancestry Service.
The data change has given rise to privacy concerns.
“If people are concerned about their social security numbers being stolen, they should be concerned about their genetic information being misused,” says Peter Pitts, president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest, a non-profit that aims to promote patient-centered health care.
“This information is never 100% safe. The risk is magnified when one organization shares it with a second organization. When information moves from one place to another, there’s always a chance for it to be intercepted by unintended third parties.”
As the technology into genetic profiling evolves, 23andMe is acting as a translation service, utilising living bodies into code that can be processed into big data.
This big data info draws a huge profit for big pharma, who can use it to create an experimental drug that can be sold to consumers based on their genetic profiles.
The FDA issued a warning of a risk of misdiagnoses based on false positives or false negatives for some genetic characteristics.
23andMe recognises the potential for security breaches on its website:
“Your genetic data, survey responses, and/or personally identifying
information may be stolen in the event of a security breach.
In the event of such a breach, if your data are associated with your identity,
they may be made public or released to insurance companies,
which could have a negative effect on your ability to obtain insurance coverage.”
People wanting to close their 23andMe accounts can go here, however, according to the company: “any research involving your data that has already been performed or published prior to our receipt of your request will not be reversed, undone, or withdrawn.”
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