Oct 12, 2010 - News

Researchers “Unzip” Their Genomes For The Public Good

A number of bloggers and researchers stand out in terms of their passion for personal genomics and in-depth coverage of this nascent industry. Many of them share 23andMe’s view that individuals should have access to their genetic information and share our vision of a future where this information has a positive impact on healthcare and people’s lives. A few months ago, some of these prominent voices banded together to form a collective blog called Genomes Unzipped. Fast forward to yesterday, when they announced the true motivation behind the group’s inception: to provide informed, independent analysis of genetic testing and research illustrated through open sharing of their own genetic data.

Initially, the goal of Genomes Unzipped was to have people well-versed in genetics analyze and discuss their genetic data to help educate and inform not just consumers of genetic tests but also researchers and policy-makers interested in the scientific, social, and ethical issues surrounding this type of information. But, as Daniel MacArthur, one of the lead members, states in his announcement post:

“As we discussed the notion of a group of experts analysing their own genomes, one thing rapidly became clear: for maximum public benefit the analyses had to be open and reproducible, and that meant making the underlying data public. In other words, for this to work, members of the group had to be ready to spill their genetic secrets to the world.”

All members of Genomes Unzipped have been tested by 23andMe, and some have had additional scans performed by Counsyl and deCODEme. The members include Daniel MacArthur, a genomics researcher who blogs at Genetic Future; Daniel Vorhaus of the Genomics Law Report; and Caroline Wright, Head of Science at the PHG Foundation; among others.

Although discussion of their results and analyses are still to come, anyone can download raw genetic data and reports for these individuals for free. They have also developed a software tool for browsing genotyping data — such as that provided by 23andMe*. The browser is available on their website and allows graphical interaction with the raw data from the Genomes Unzipped members.

23andMe is not formally collaborating with Genomes Unzipped on their project and does not endorse any statements or claims made as a result of their use of the 23andMe Personal Genome Serviceâ„¢. We do believe, however, that everyone has a right to access his or her genetic information, and we are happy to see that people are empowered to learn more about their genetics, motivated to develop tools and provide a forum for understanding genetic information, and inspired to improve our knowledge of genetics as applied to individuals. Certainly, the journey on which Genomes Unzipped has embarked will be exciting and educational for participants and observers alike. We can’t wait to see where it will take us.

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