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On the Bright Side, You've Got an Admirable Collection of Spit

Over at Bnet, there's an article about why free personal genomics programs such as Coriell's won't be the end of direct-to-consumer genomics -- and why the DTC companies' flawed business model will. As David Hamilton sees it, 23andMe's rate cuts aren't the problem: "Personal-genomics companies don't intend to make money by selling the tests," he writes. "Instead, their business generally depends on amassing a giant anonymized database of customer genetic information that can be mined for research studies by academic researchers or drug companies."

Here's the problem that Hamilton outlines: "The real threat is that cheap SNP scanning will undermine the very research studies that companies like 23andMe and Navigenics planned to make their bread and butter," he writes. He likens this to Celera's gene database, which was also supposed to make a fortune through paid access but wound up losing out to high-quality, freely available repositories.

If things go as badly as Hamilton predicts, the personal genomics companies may start wishing for a black hole to open up.


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