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Stanford And U.C. Berkeley Offering Of Genetic Testing Is To Help Ensure Students Are Prepared to Handle Future of Personalized

Posted Jul 12 2010 9:22am

Each program is similar but yet very different at each university.  Stanford is a demographic group that is also a bit older than the students at Berkeley so a combination of both with different age groups represented could offer a lot of information for the future. image

Stanford also offers the students the interpretation via Navigenics and 23andMe, which both recently have come under fire at the FDA for marketing to the general public.  For the students this is a free offering.  I also learned something here too in that the DNA samples are also destroyed once the process has been completed but the data lives forever.   The data as I understand is anonimized and will allow for additional research and studies and will stand to introduce personalized medicine at a college level, whether or not they are medical students or have majors in other areas. 

Berkeley is offering a one on one counseling session for students.  Berkeley is also doing their own testing in house after not being able to find an commercial company they considered affordable.  Stanford also offers a summer course called Genetics 210 to offer additional information.  This will be an interesting topic to follow to see how both interest and enrollment continue.  BD 

Interpreting the Genome - understanding all the data

This week, the University of California, Berkeley will mail saliva sample kits to every incoming freshman and transfer student. Students can choose to use the kits to submit their DNA for genetic analysis, as part of an orientation program on the topic of personalized medicine. But U.C. Berkeley isn't the only university offering its students genetic testing. Stanford University's summer session started two weeks ago, including a class on personal genomics that gives medical and graduate students the chance to sequence their genotypes and study the results.

Stanford's project, in contrast, is only open to medical and graduate students in the form of an eight-week elective summer class called " Genetics 210: Genomics and Personalized Medicine," in which about 50 students have enrolled, with a dozen more auditing. Students in the class can choose to have their genotype analyzed by Navigenics or 23andMe —personal genomics companies that provide individualized risks for various health conditions and sensitivity to drugs (23andMe also provides additional information about ancestry). The results of their tests will be incorporated into the class curriculum, although students can also opt to study publicly available genetic data in lieu of analyzing their own. Professors will not know what decision the students make. The idea behind the class is to prepare a new generation of physicians and scientists with the understanding that they need to properly analyze and interpret genetic data.

Stuart Kim , a Stanford professor of developmental biology and genetics who served as Salari's faculty sponsor, says the goal is to make sure Stanford students are prepared to handle the future of personalized medicine. "The students are going to need extensive training," he adds.

Berkeley is offering genetic testing to its students free of charge, a decision that could persuade students to participate, many bioethicists argue, because many may jump at the opportunity to obtain for free what is usually costly.

Students enrolled in Stanford's elective must pay a $99 fee to have their genotypes analyzed by 23andMe or Navigenics. "These tests are normally offered to the general public at $500 or $600," Chu says.

Although all DNA samples collected by Berkeley will be incinerated after testing is complete, the results of those tests will be preserved as data sets on computers. But the tests results will not be useful for research purposes, says Michael Eisen , a Berkeley biologist who has defended the "Bring Your Genes to Cal" program on his blog . "It's such a small sample of alleles that are not of significant research interest. I could probably tell you in two seconds what the results are likely to be—it's completely predictable."

Stanford cannot use the students' physical DNA samples for research because 23andMe destroys DNA samples after testing, and Navigenics—although it may preserve the sample for a year—eventually does the same (also giving customers the option to request earlier destruction).

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