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A Slight Change in Plans

The University of California, Berkeley, yesterday announced that students will no longer be able to view their personal genotyping results as part of its "Bring Your Genes to Cal" program. "While the university still plans to analyze the DNA samples in a campus research lab, students who voluntarily returned samples will not be allowed to see their personal results," the school said in its statement. "Instead, the test results will be presented in aggregate to students during lectures and panel discussions planned for the fall 2010 semester."

In response to the Berkeley announcement, the Center for Genetics and Society said it "applauded today's cancellation of controversial plans by the University of California, Berkeley," adding that "the university's institutional review board needs to revisit this issue" of informed consent.

Berkeley maintains that because their program "is an educational experiment, the students are not patients, and the three specific genetic variants are not disease related, CLIA rules and the California statute do not apply," as the school wrote in a letter dated August 2 to the California Department of Public Health.

Berkeley's Nancy Scheper-Hughes, professor of medical anthropology, tells Nature "I don't think we welcome our students by turning them into [research] subjects." The New Scientist highlights statements made by Mark Schlissel, dean of biological sciences at the school, and Jasper Rine, a genetics professor there, who express their disappointment surrounding the change in plans. "It's a shame that we were not allowed to provide students with their personalized results, which would have made this a one-of-a-kind experience for incoming students and an example of the cutting-edge type of education offered at UC Berkeley," Schlissel says.

Our sister publication GenomeWeb Daily News has more here.

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