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The Skinny: Genes Pocket Data on Bad Drugs, Best Sex

Here’s the fun and exciting side of genetic information. It’s not all federal rules and regulations—although the Food and Drug Administration is expected to jump in soon and start regulating the burgeoning new genomics industry.

July 3, 2011
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The genetic information available now to the average consumer is just staggering. For a small fee, one can learn about ancestors' early migrations, what genetic conditions may jeopardize good health or if certain pharmaceutical drugs could cause bad reactions.

There are even genetic matchmakers who, based on your genetic profile, will propose partners for the best sex ever.

Here's the fun and exciting side of genetic information. It's not all federal rules and regulations—although the Food and Drug Administration is expected to jump in soon and start regulating the burgeoning new genomics industry.

For the time being, keeping track of all the new businesses providing personal genetic information is like a “Who's on first?” game.

One popular company is 23andme Inc., founded in Mountain View, California, by Anne Wojcicki, the wife of Google co-founder Sergey Brin. For a price of $99, plus a $108 year's subscription to receive monthly updates, customers are sent a kit that allows them to collect a saliva sample, from which a DNA analysis is made. After six to eight weeks, customers will know their personal risk of developing numerous conditions. By mid-May the number of potential conditions had reached 193, but ongoing research continues to push that total up.

The price also includes heritage information on the customer's earliest ancestors, as well as their migrations through time and around the globe.

Navigenics Inc., in Foster City, California, offers something similar, but only through physicians and corporate wellness programs that participate in its service. Information about genetic predispositions and reactions to medications helps consumers act on their genetic information to prevent or manage disease.

Meanwhile, last December, Ion Torrent Systems Inc., a company in Guilford, Connecticut, launched the compact Personal Genome Machine, which allows quick and easy DNA sequencing. About the size of a small toaster oven, it's a fraction of the size and cost of standard DNA decoders.

One enthralling aspect of the genomic revolution is the advance in genetic matchmaking. ScientificMatch.com, based in Naples, Florida, offers hookups with people whose complementary genes promise “great chemistry.” But genetic science doesn't hold the answer to one of life's greatest mysteries.

“It's not the answer to who you're going to fall in love with,” cautions company founder Eric Holzle. “Just because you have chemistry doesn't mean you're going to fall in love.”

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