Keenan: Thinking well beyond COVID-19 – Calgary Herald

Posted: October 15, 2020 at 6:58 pm

How can you make this type of research information into news you can use? Thats a real challenge.

About a year ago, I thought I saw a path to greater use of genetic information by consumers. An ambitious company named Veritas Genetics was offering full genome sequencing to U.S. customers for $599 US. They told me they were planning to expand to Canada. Veritas is backed by considerable brainpower, including its co-founder, Harvard professor George Church, often called the father of synthetic biology.

A full human genome sequence is about three billion base pairs, containing your complete genetic blueprint. By contrast, companies like Ancestry and 23andme only look at certain parts of the genome that provide information about ancestral roots and common medical conditions.

What Veritas seemed to lack is financial backing. This was complicated by the fact that many of its investors were from China, which raised red flags because of possible U.S. regulations. Privacy experts have also told us to be very careful about where our genetic data goes once it leaves our mouth as a bit of spittle. Veritas has suspended their U.S. whole genome testing, laid off some staff, and is currently focusing on COVID-19 tests.

Competitors are cropping up, and theres no doubt you will eventually be able to download your complete gene sequence and scan it for interesting findings. There are already tools out there like OpenSNP that can work with the information you can download from 23andme, deCODEme or FamilyTreeDNA. It can answer questions like am I a fast metabolizer of caffeine?

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Keenan: Thinking well beyond COVID-19 - Calgary Herald

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