Saturday, October 19, 2013

Ten Years after his forecast...

In May of 2003, Dr. Gary Collins testified before a House Subcommittee on Health and included his vision for the future of genomic medicine, as follows.

“While it always is somewhat risky to predict the future, I want to leave you with my view of where I believe genomic medicine is headed. In the next ten years, I expect that predictive genetic tests will exist for many common conditions in which interventions can alleviate inherited risk, so that each of us can learn of our individual risks for future illness and practice more effective health maintenance and disease prevention. By the year 2020, gene-based designer drugs are likely to be available for conditions like diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, hypertension, and many other disorders. Cancer treatment will precisely target the molecular fingerprints of particular tumors, genetic information will be used routinely to give patients more appropriate drug therapy, and the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness will be transformed.”

As a new graduate in Futures Studies from UHCL, I was excited by Dr. Collins vision, and could hardly wait to see the benefits of the race to sequence the human genome. I had family members that I felt would benefit in several ways, but most specifically in knowing how their bodies would react to different medications and dosages.

One thing that Dr. Collins did not mention in his vision was that DNA testing would become very important in criminal cases in a very few years, leading to convictions for some and freedom for others, including freedom for many who had been erroneously convicted, sometimes for very long periods.

Well. It’s been ten years now, and coincidence or not, last week I received a letter from Anne Wojcicki, CEO of 23andMe, inviting me to order a DNA test kit for $99. I ordered two test kits the same day.

Just ten years after the completion of the genome sequencing project and Dr. Collins presentation to the House subcommittee, I ordered an analysis of my personal DNA for about $100.00. Right on schedule!

Will the information be useful or valuable? I’m in my late seventies, so have already learned a lot about my health and medications. For example, standard dosages of beta-blockers seem to affect my system differently than they do other people. I’ve suspected that about other medications, but have never been certain. I’m hoping the information from 23andMe will tell me something about how my body will react to different medications.

But the truth is, I’m curious. What will a DNA report actually be able to tell me? Will it offer information that will be valuable to our children or grandchildren? Will it confirm information I already know about? What is the potential for everyone?

I’ll write another blog on this subject after we get our test results, but in the meantime, Fast Company has a feature article titled “The Most Daring CEO in America” about Wojcicki and 23andMe. My issue arrived the day after I placed our order.

If you have comments or suggestions for the follow up blog, please post them below and I will have them in mind when I write that blog.