Who couldn’t use a little extra money now and again? Better still, what if earning that money was as easy as a mouth swab? According to a report on Journal Star, that could soon be a reality. Researchers are actively pursuing genetic information to study diseases like dementia, lupus, and leukemia. You and I may soon be able to sell or rent or DNA to these very researchers for a profit. Keep reading to learn more or follow the original story here for more information.
23 and Money
There is a growing and seemingly successful group of biotech companies developing across the country. Within this bio-economy, the groups known as LunaDNA, and Nebula Genomics are leading the charge on this genes-for-profit concept.
These groups, so-called “bio-brokers”, have an interest in information ranging from 23andME, to Ancestry.com, to complete genomes. No matter how big or small, there seems to be someone willing to pay for genetic details.
If every bit of genetic information is valuable one question that a consumer might ask is “why?” In simplest terms, scientists require a vast number of data points to verify theories, or discover relationships. The more information researchers can observe, the better drugs and therapies they can develop for any given condition.
One group associated with Ancestry.com sold around 1.5 million saliva test kits last year. This only accounted for their sales between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. According to Wired.com that equates to roughly 2000 gallons of saliva – swimming pools full of genetic information. In other words, a gross amount of scientific potential.
It’s All in the Details
Part of what has enabled this movement is the drastic decrease in cost required for genetic sequencing. A whole genome can be mapped out for around $1000. Some researchers estimate that cost could drop to as low as $100 in the next three years. CRISPR has also given scientists unprecedented access to and ability to manipulate DNA. Technology has, in a large way, driven demand.
Even though many people never develop a genetic disorder, there are many people carrying genes involved in similar conditions, and even establishing a wide variety of baselines could prove useful. So while in some respect everyone has the same genes, in another, everyone is completely different. There are variants on every gene and they can determine anything from eye color to vulnerability to illnesses. Furthermore, simple genetic tests like 23andMe check over 500,000 variants. There is a goldmine of data.
Concerns do, however, exist surrounding ownership and safety. Data privacy has become more of a concern than ever. The data being dealt with in these cases is extremely sensitive. Being that the technology is also relatively new, there remain a large number of ethics questions at hand as well. Much remains to be sorted out regarding the trade of genetic information. In any case, consumers are advised to read the fine print.