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December 5, 2007

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Have you dreamed of receiving genetic testing, but somehow the $3,000 to 5,000 was more than a little steep? Thanks to 23andMe, a Google-funded company, the cost of genetic testing is now much lower. Especially, with the decline of the dollar against international currencies, this company will enjoy high sales from folks outside of the US as well. 23andMe, named for the 23 pairs of chromosomes that compose the human genome, provides genetic profiles now available for a mere USD$999. Linda Avey, co-founder of 23andMe said, "The mission of 23andMe is to take the genetic revolution to a new level". We believe it does.

A recent publication likened the new service to a "kind of genetics-based MySpace or Facebook". However the more important purpose for this leading-edge personal assessment is its use to help biotechnology inform medicine and help society achieve a more personalized approach to treatment. We know that certain pharmaceuticals work for some people and not for others. Up to now we have not been able to segment the population by the genetic factors. In the future, we will be able to do just that.

When customers sign up for the DNA test online, they receive and return, by mail, a vial into which they place their saliva. Four to six weeks later, customers may access the company's findings online. The findings tell a fascinating story about inherited traits and ancestry. Most critically, there is a section on personal disease risks. 23andMe suggests that the individual seek the support of a healthcare professional to help interpret the information---a good idea since the report displays more than a half-million data points in the client's genome. Though the site does not make interpretations about the risk of developing cancer, diabetes, or Alzheimer's, it does offer an opportunity to compare your genetic blueprint to those of your friends and family.

Of course, security is an issue; the company has protected personal data with more than a dozen levels of authentication and encryption between the lab and the individual.

This company's new service is just the beginning of a genetics revolution.


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