23andMe, Mountain View Genomics Company, Patents Baby-Predicting Technology

Service won't be extended or given to fertility clinics, company promises

By Chris Roberts
|  Friday, Oct 4, 2013  |  Updated 11:11 AM PDT
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Cheryl Hurd reports on a controversial patent from Mountain View 's 23andMe that could help you predict what kind of family traits your child might inherit from you. One genetic expert thinks this kind of genetic testing is getting into

Cheryl Hurd reports on a controversial patent from Mountain View 's 23andMe that could help you predict what kind of family traits your child might inherit from you. One genetic expert thinks this kind of genetic testing is getting into "scary territory."

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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

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Wanted: one baby, red-haired, with good memory, a long lifespan, and -- oh, let's say, a healthy resistance to Alzheimer's.

23andMe, a personal genomics firm in Mountain View, can help you find the right person to create such another person.

But they won't -- or so they claim.

The genomics company recently received a U.S. Government patent for its "Gamete donor selection based on genetic calculations," according to Wired.

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This technology means that a would-be parent can pre-select what traits they want in future children, and then be told what partner would be best-suited to create the desired offspring.

There are more than 240 traits that 23andMe's 400,000 customers can choose from, including breast shape and resistance to breast cancer and other diseases, the tech magazine reported.

However, the technology will not be applied to fertility clinics or other areas in which a would-be parent can pay for the child they want, a company spokeswoman told Wired.

The patent instead covers the "Inheritance Calculator," an existing product that allows users to predict their child's eye color, lactose tolerance, "earwax composition" and a few other traits, according to the company.

There are no plans to expand that existing service with the additional traits in the patent, Wired reported.

VIDEO: Jolie Brings Attention to Genetic Testing

Some geneticists feel that such predictions would miss the mark more often than not anyway. As Wired reported, "only a small-to-medium-sized fraction" of traits a person will possess can be accurately predicted by genetics.

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