Bring Your Questions for Genetics Entrepreneur Anne Wojcicki

DESCRIPTIONAnne Wojcicki

Anne Wojcicki, a biotech analyst and biologist, is co-founder of the “personal genetics” company 23andMe — which, for a fee, will take a bit of your spit and map out your DNA to learn genealogical details as well as your risk factors for certain diseases. Clients can also join the company’s gene-themed social networks and share their genetic info with others. Sort of like Facebook for your innards.

Wired‘s Adam Rogers wonders whether services like 23andMe could lead to “genetic hypochondria,” leaked genetic information, or a spike in preventive measures that some may consider extreme.

Wojcicki’s husband is a moderately well-known tech guy who, thanks to his wife’s work, learned that he has a genetic mutation that makes him more likely to get Parkinson’s disease.

Before starting 23andMe, Wojcicki spent 10 years in healthcare investing with a focus on biotech companies.

She has agreed to take your questions, so fire away in the comments section below. (I wonder what she thinks of a fat tax — that’s a tax on fat food, people, not fat people.) As with all Q&A’s, we will post the answers here shortly.

Addendum: Wojcicki answers your questions here.

COMMENTS: 87

View All Comments »
  1. Gary says:

    A tax on fatty foods would just cause food manufacturers to looby congress to reclassify their foods as ‘healthy’. Then there would be constant bickering about which foods belong on the list of ‘fat’ foods and which don’t.

    A tax on calories wouldn’t work either, since a 100 lb woman requires about half as many calories as a 200 lb man.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  2. Megan says:

    I have a question for Ms. Wojcicki–do the results tell how much of a risk a person is at for these diseases? Or does it just show you a list of things you’re predisposed to, without any clarification?
    Also, what is the DNA checked for? Just the basics like Huntington’s, Parkinson’s, or is it based on a health history people fill out?

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  3. Krishna says:

    Hi Anne,
    I am interested in the “genealogical” part. Would that mean that people’d be able to trace their family trees ad infinitum?
    (It’s not a prospect I completely relish).

    Krishna

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  4. Joe says:

    Do you expect the deflation in the cost of sequencing a base pair of DNA to continue at its current pace – even if other exponential deflation in computing and other information technologies stops? What do you think are possible scenarios that would stop the vast cheapening of genome sequencing?

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  5. Marla says:

    Hello,
    Until now I was unaware or your company but I find the idea very interesting.

    My question is about the motives of your clients… Do you find that most people use your services for specific reasons (such as, my father died of a strange disease and I want to know if it’s something I should be worried about) or if it more about curiosity (I want to know about the amazing complexities of my own body)?

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  6. david says:

    Do you believe there is a genetic component to intelligence?

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  7. Greg says:

    What kind of “genealogical details” can I learn from your analysis? Will you tell me if I am 1/4 Irish or 1/32 Cherokee?

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  8. Michael says:

    People don’t want insurance companies screening customers using genetic profiling, but do you think there’s room for insurance companies (public or private) to use services like 23andMe to assist their customers pursue preventative measures? People (and regulators) may not want insurance companies to deny coverage to somebody because they’re at a high risk of getting some form of cancer, but they might not mind being encouraged to get checked every year by their insurance company. Do you foresee a future where insurers might encourage clients to get genetic profiles as a cost-cutting measure?

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0