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Bioessays. 2008 Nov;30(11-12):1246-51. doi: 10.1002/bies.20837.

The brave new era of human genetic testing.

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Department of Mathematics, University of Hamburg, 20146 Hamburg, Germany.


The commercialization of 'big science' is in full swing, leading to situations in which the ethical principles of academia are beginning to be compromised. This is exemplified by the profitable business of genetic ancestry testing. The goals of this sort of 'big science' are not necessarily in any way novel, however. In particular, large genotyping projects have a certain start-up time when their design is frozen in, so that the projects often lag behind the development of genetic knowledge. On the other hand, extremely provisional knowledge about potential disease markers is being rapidly turned into questionable 'tests', purporting to determine risk factors for complex disorders, by private companies that are eager to get their share of a profitable market of the future. The flow of money generated by such concerns looks likely to erode traditional research operations and small-scale projects, which risk becoming pebbles on the 'big science' landscape.

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