Wednesday, June 17, 2009

In the Literature: Predictive Health 2.0

The recent double issue of The American Journal of Bioethics (Vol 9 6&7) includes two target articles (followed by open peer commentaries) on the ethical issues of direct-to-consumer (DTC) genomics and social networking.

The issue opens with an editorial by 23&Me's Andro R. Hsu, Joanna L. Mountain, Anne Wojcicki, and Linda Avey: "A pragmatic consideration of ethical issues relating to personal genomics." The editorial offers five points of discussion that the authors find relevant to the discussion of the ethical issues. Facebook users might be surprised to discover that the service is offered as an example of innovative data sharing policies; see point five: "A single data sharing policy cannot fit the needs of all".

The first "target article" reports the result of an attitudes survey about DTC; see: McGuire AL, Diaz CM, Wang T, Hilsenbeck SG. Social networkers' attitudes toward direct-to-consumer personal genome testing. Although the title suggests that "social networkers" are a focus of the article, in reality they are a convenient (or experimental?) survey population--the authors used Zoomerang and Facebook to reach the 1,080 respondents. Of the respondents, 47% reported a pre-existing knowledge of DTC genomics companies like 23&Me, Navigencs, and deCODEme; 6% reported having used one of these services and 64% reported a willingness to use one of the services in the future.

The second "target article" focuses on where all this might be leading; see: Lee SS, Crawley L. Research 2.0: social networking and direct-to-consumer (DTC) genomics. In addition to proposing that social network analysis could be used to explore the impact of these DTC genomics ventures on research, data sharing, and subject recruitment, the authors also ask: "What are the ethical and social implications of new social formations created through the sharing of personal genomic information?" In other words, how will the convergence of Web 2.0 and personal genomic information (PGI) change our social structures?

Commentaries on these articles include a few authored by friends of the PredictER program; see, for example:

Esposito K, Goodman K. Genethics 2.0: phenotypes, genotypes, and the challenge of databases generated by personal genome testing. pp. 19-21.

Caulfield T. Direct-to-consumer genetics and health policy: a worst-case scenario? pp. 48-50.

Other articles and publications of interest:

Genetic privacy and piracy. Nat Cell Biol. 2009 May;11(5):509. PubMed PMID:19404329.
Avard D, Silverstein T, Sillon G, Joly Y. Researchers' perceptions of the ethical implications of pharmacogenomics research with children. Public Health Genomics. 2009;12(3):191-201. PMID: 19204423.

Bombard Y, Veenstra G, Friedman JM, Creighton S, Currie L, Paulsen JS, Bottorff JL, Hayden MR; Canadian Respond-HD Collaborative Research Group. Perceptions of genetic discrimination among people at risk for Huntington's disease: a cross sectional survey. BMJ. 2009 Jun 9;338:b2175. PMID: 19509425.

Borry P, Howard HC, Sénécal K, Avard D. Health-related direct-to-consumer genetic testing: a review of companies' policies with regard to genetic testing in minors. Fam Cancer. 2009 Jun 2. PMID: 19488835.

Dokholyan RS, Muhlbaier LH, Falletta JM, Jacobs JP, Shahian D, Haan CK, Peterson ED. Regulatory and ethical considerations for linking clinical and administrative databases. Am Heart J. 2009 Jun;157(6):971-82. PMID: 19464406.

Forsberg JS, Hansson MG, Eriksson S. Changing perspectives in biobank research: from individual rights to concerns about public health regarding the return of results. Eur J Hum Genet. 2009 May 27. PMID: 19471310.

Goddard KA, Duquette D, Zlot A, Johnson J, Annis-Emeott A, Lee PW, Bland MP, Edwards KL, Oehlke K, Giles RT, Rafferty A, Cook ML, Khoury MJ. Public awareness and use of direct-to-consumer genetic tests: results from 3 state population-based surveys, 2006. Am J Public Health. 2009 Mar;99(3):442-5. PMID: 19106425.

Henrikson NB, Bowen D, Burke W. Does genomic risk information motivate people to change their behavior? Genome Med. 2009 Apr 2;1(4):37. PMID: 19341508.

Maliapen M. Clinical genomics data use: protecting patients privacy rights. Studies in Ethics, Law, and Technology. 2009;3(1):Article 1. Available at:

Manion FJ, Robbins RJ, Weems WA, Crowley RS. Security and privacy requirements for a multi-institutional cancer research data grid: an interview-based study. BMC Med Inform Decis Mak. 2009 Jun 15;9(1):31. PMID: 19527521.

Mascalzoni D, Hicks A, Pramstaller PP. Consenting in population genomics as an open communication process. Studies in Ethics, Law, and Technology. 2009;3(1):Article 2. Available at:

Rogowski WH, Grosse SD, Khoury MJ. Challenges of translating genetic tests into clinical and public health practice. Nat Rev Genet. 2009 Jun 9. PMID: 19506575.

Wilkinson RH. The single equality bill: a missed opportunity to legislate on genetic discrimination? Studies in Ethics, Law, and Technology. 2009;3(1):Article 3. Available at:

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Gene Patents on the Radio

Do you own your genes? Should you have a stake in the profits from gene-related products based on "your" genes? What about the "tens of thousands of patents" issues by the U.S. Patent and Trade Office for gene-related products? If you're interested, Rebecca Roberts discusses Patenting Genes with Joshua D. Sarnoff, Hans Sauer, and Shobita Parthasarathy on The Kojo Nnamdi Show (WAMU 88.5 FM, June 4, 2009.)

Listen to the full show online or read a summary Donald Zuhn's summary, "Gene Patenting Debate Continues" (Patent Docs, June 9, 2009).