The sector of genetics has come a great distance since human genome sequencing started within the 1990s—nevertheless it nonetheless has large room for development, 23andMe co-founder Anne Wojcicki stated on the TIME 100 Well being Summit on Thursday.
Wojcicki appeared on a panel about DNA and genetics with geneticist Eric Lander, president and founding director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. In the course of the dialog, Wojcicki likened lingering considerations over privateness points related to at-home genetic testing—like that which 23andMe gives via its direct-to-consumer saliva exams—to decades-ago hesitance to place bank card data on-line, which she skilled on the time as an investor on Wall Avenue. The arrest of the suspected Golden State Killer, which relied on genetic information uploaded by his relations to a public database, made many customers cautious of how they might be recognized by their DNA—fears solely heightened by a 2018 examine that discovered tens of millions of Individuals might be recognized via these databases, even when they’d by no means taken a DNA take a look at. (The Golden State Killer was arrested primarily based on genetic information uploaded to GEDmatch, a free on-line database).
Wojcicki, nonetheless, stated she believes customers will ultimately get used to the dangers and advantages related to direct-to-consumer testing. “The reality is with a new technology, it just takes time for people to be comfortable with it,” Wojcicki stated. “We believe you own your genome and you should do with it what you want.”
Even just a few a long time in the past, when Lander helped lead the landmark Human Genome Challenge, that prospect would have been unimaginable. At the moment, it took big quantities of money and time to sequence a human genome; now, tens of millions of Individuals have had theirs analyzed by firms like 23andMe.
“I wouldn’t in my wildest dreams have predicted where we’d get to,” Lander stated. “I would have underestimated where we’re going.”
Wojcicki and Lander agreed that the proliferation of genetic sequencing holds immense promise not solely due to its uncooked scientific insights, but in addition for the affect it has had on information sharing. Earlier than the Human Genome Challenge, “the tradition in science had been you collected your data and you analyzed your data and you held onto your data,” Lander remembered.
It’s laborious to reconcile that with a world the place consumer-facing firms like 23andMe not solely give genetic information again to clients, but in addition to drug giants like GlaxoSmithKline. (Information is just shared with third events if customers decide in to 23andMe’ analysis applications.) “The only way we’re really going to make meaningful progress in research,” Wojcicki stated, “is not if it’s one single institution doing it, but actually if we crowdsource it together.”