Bay Area Company Admits Genetic Testing Mix-Up

Google-backed startup 23andMe can't get its haplogroups straight

By Jackson West
|  Tuesday, Jun 8, 2010  |  Updated 3:45 PM PDT
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Great Foods You Aren't Eating

Juhan Sonin

Dozens of 23andMe customers got results from someone else's spit-test.

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Personal genetic testing is all the rage, with kits even available at Walgreens. But one Bay Area company is struggling to keep its records straight.

23andMe is a San Francisco-based purveyor of "recreational genomics" that's received investments from Google and Google co-founder Sergey Brin.  Brin just happens to be the husband of 23andMe co-founder Anne Wojcicki.

The rub came with 12andMe mailed out the wrong results to dozens of customers.

One woman received the news that her son was not, in fact, her son, and with the memory of baby switching scandals at the hospital where she gave birth, feared the worst and fell to tears.

Others noticed the mistake more quickly -- such as the man who was told that he was, genetically, a woman.

The company does its best to avoid any regulation by essentially saying the tests are for novelty purposes only, while simultaneously advertising that it has medical value in the form of markers for possible disease pre-dispositions.

More worrying is the privacy implications of the breach -- real medical records are supposed to be very, very strictly private and protected by doctor-patient confidentiality.

Not to mention, of course, quality control standards at the company.

Jackson West has a genetic predisposition for bacon.

Photo by Juhan Sonin.

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