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Informatics: Obstacles to Unlocking the Human Genome

A panel of DNA, policy, and research experts analyze the social implications of pharmaceutical companies and universities patenting the human genome. Ballon compares the argument against releasing genetic information to a 1961 study of cancer diagnosis.


Personal genomic testing (the analysis of the DNA of individuals) is now available for less than $400. The consequences of personal genetic testing are often debated, with advocates arguing that genetic data can lead to improved health care and critics warning that consumers may be unduly worried upon learning results.

California regulations impose conditions on firms providing personal genomic testing. This symposium examines genomic testing technology, its ramifications, government regulation of the industry, and whether individuals should have their genome analyzed. - Commonwealth Club of California

Linda Avey has over 20 years of sales and business development experience in the biopharmaceutical industry in San Francisco, Boston, San Diego, and Washington, D.C. Prior to starting 23andMe, she developed translational research collaborations with academic and pharmaceutical partners for Affymetrix and Perlegen Sciences. Avey also spent time at Spotfire helping scientists understand the power of data visualization and at Applied Biosystems during the early days of the human genome project. The advent of high density genome-wide scanning technologies brought huge potential for significant discoveries. However, the lack of sufficient funding to enable adequate studies prompted Avey to think of a new research model. These ideas led to the formation of 23andMe. Her primary interest is the acceleration of personalized medicine, using genetic profiles to target the right drug to the right person at the correct dose. Avey graduated from Augustana College with a B.A. in biology.

Daniel Ballon is Senior Policy Fellow in Technology Studies at the Pacific Research Institute. Dr. Ballon's research focuses on policies which promote innovation in the technology sector. He previously spent ten years conducting applied research in biotechnology, and his work has been published in leading biomedical journals. Prior to joining PRI, he served as science and technology policy advisor for former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich at the American Enterprise Institute. Dr. Ballon received his Ph.D. in Molecular and Cell Biology from the University of California at Berkeley and a B.A. in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry from Wesleyan University.

David C. Magnus, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Medicine, Stanford University. Magnus is also Director of the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics.

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