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Andrew Pollack Versus Personal Genomics? Not Quite

The story that Linda Avey told us was coming from New York Times reporter Andrew Pollack hit the presses on Friday. In it, Pollack examines why consumers have been "slow to embrace the age of genomics," by purchasing genetic testing services from companies like 23andMe, Navigenics, and DeCode Genetics. He notes that two and a half years after initiating its service, 23andMe is down to 40 employees from a peak of 70, and has only 35,000 customers — of which at least a quarter received free services or were charged a nominal $25. Pollack also reports that Navigenics and DeCode have fewer customers. According to Pollack, the fundamental issue is that current DNA scanning technologies are unable to offer meaningful — and fully vetted — disease risk predictions. In an e-mail to the Times, 23andMe co-founder Anne Wojcicki wrote that "business is moving ahead in a positive trajectory. We’ve hit some bumps in the road but we are learning and continuing to evolve. We did not start this company thinking it was going to be easy to create an entirely new market." Pollack says that experts maintain that as the cost of reading DNA continues to fall, "analyzing people’s genetic make-ups will no doubt become an essential part of health care," adding, "But that might take a few years and require sequencing a person’s entire genome, not just sampling selected bits, as the companies do now."

The Scan

Positive Framing of Genetic Studies Can Spark Mistrust Among Underrepresented Groups

Researchers in Human Genetics and Genomics Advances report that how researchers describe genomic studies may alienate potential participants.

Small Study of Gene Editing to Treat Sickle Cell Disease

In a Novartis-sponsored study in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that a CRISPR-Cas9-based treatment targeting promoters of genes encoding fetal hemoglobin could reduce disease symptoms.

Gut Microbiome Changes Appear in Infants Before They Develop Eczema, Study Finds

Researchers report in mSystems that infants experienced an enrichment in Clostridium sensu stricto 1 and Finegoldia and a depletion of Bacteroides before developing eczema.

Acute Myeloid Leukemia Treatment Specificity Enhanced With Stem Cell Editing

A study in Nature suggests epitope editing in donor stem cells prior to bone marrow transplants can stave off toxicity when targeting acute myeloid leukemia with immunotherapy.