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Jolie Brings Attention to Genetic Testing

Companies like 23andMe getting new attention

By Scott Budman
|  Tuesday, May 14, 2013  |  Updated 5:53 PM PDT
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Discovering your genetic make up is the reason behind a Mountain View-based startup called 23andMe. It offers genetic testing (and education) starting at 99 dollars. It's meant to help people learn about their genetic makeup, at a price that allows far more people to do so than ever before. Scott Budman reports

Discovering your genetic make up is the reason behind a Mountain View-based startup called 23andMe. It offers genetic testing (and education) starting at 99 dollars. It's meant to help people learn about their genetic makeup, at a price that allows far more people to do so than ever before. Scott Budman reports

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The news from Angelina Jolie has spurred lots of reaction: Cheers, yes, but also awareness.

The fact that the Oscar-winning actress and director had the preventative double mastectomy - announced Tuesday in a New York Times piece - because of genetic information has put genetic testing in a new light.

The immediate problem is that when many people think "genetic testing," they also jump to the conclusion: "Too expensive, and my healthcare plan probably won't pay for it."

MORE: "I Had Double Mastectomy to Prevent Breast Cancer"

It's also a bit mysterious: How can my background, and that of my family, help tell me what might lie in my future?

Both of those problems are being tackled head-on by technology companies. In the Bay Area, a Mountain View-based startup called 23andMe - co-founded by Sergey Brin's wife, Anne Wojcicki - offers genetic testing (and education) starting at 99 dollars. It's meant to help people learn about their genetic makeup, at a price that allows far more people to do so than ever before.

MORE: Cancer Survivors, Fellow Celebs Commend Jolie on Preventative Mastectomy

We're also seeing reaction from a company called Myriad Genetics. Based in Salt Lake City, Myriad says one of its products can be used in the genetic testing that Jolie had. As more attention comes to such testing, Myriad saw a jump in its stock price on Tuesday.

While it makes sense that most of the attention regarding Jolie's announcement will focus on breast cancer and its prevention, the issue of genetic testing is also getting a boost. Thanks to companies looking at new, high-tech ways to bring such testing to more people, this will likely be a helpful development.

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 Comments? Scott is on Twitter: @scottbudman

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