Personal gene sequencing is all the rage among technophiles. But the medical establishment isn't necessarily on board — for starters, no insurance company will cover the cost, and doctors aren't always prepared to appropriately evaluate the results of a test. In an editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers concluded that the time for personalized genetic testing is "Not now — ask again in a few years." 23andMe, which was cofounded by Sergey Brin's wife Anne Wojcicki and counts Google as an investor, offers a test for the low, low price of $1,000. New startup Navigenics will do the same for $2,500. But they will only sequence a few known genes, there are a lot of caveats in the fine print, and there are serious privacy concerns. So what's the upside?
The tests can help to pinpoint a person's ethnic heritage, as sent up in the latest episode of The Boondocks.
This suggests an alternate business model for 23andMe. Why doesn't Google run racial-background tests on all their employees? The company might just discover that there are more black Googlers than previously thought.