Oct 24, 2008, 06:02AM

A glimpse into (y)our future

National Book Award-winning author Richard Powers investigates the genetics market and how certain parties are attempting to direct it into the future.

The premise:

I came across the Personal Genome Project (PGP), a remarkable nonprofit test bed under the auspices of Harvard. Ten volunteers had already signed up to sequence most of the regions of the genome known to have especially high medical or functional significance. This came to about 1 percent of the total 6 billion base pairs—midway between 23andMe’s .02 percent sampling and Knome’s 98 percent whole genome.

The design of the PGP confronts head-on one of the main hot-button issues of genetics: privacy. Church believes that genomic research can’t both guarantee the confidentiality of genetic information and share it. If society must choose between data security and enjoyment of all the benefits of shared knowledge, Church thinks we should adjust and share. We’ve gotten used to surrendering our anonymity and security every time we walk out of a restaurant leaving an imprint of our credit card. We now potentially surrender a whole lot more every time we leave behind a drinking glass with a little saliva in it. Google “surreptitious sampling” for a look at things to come.



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