Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Good Enough Science? Apparently so at 23andme

"A total of 61 individuals involved in five norovirus outbreaks in Denmark were genotyped at nucleotides 428 and 571 of the FUT2 gene, determining secretor status, i.e., the presence of ABH antigens in secretions and on mucosa. A strong correlation (P 0.003) was found between the secretor phenotype and symptomatic disease, extending previous knowledge and confirming that nonsense mutations in the FUT2 gene provide protection against symptomatic norovirus (GGII.4) infections."

This from a report at 23andSerge's "Norovirus Resistance" report.

I don't know what I would do with a Norovirus resistance report........Go on more cruises? Work in a daycare? Have more kids?

I bring this up because I begin to wonder what level of science is good science.

Is highlighting every article as useful as highlighting important and valid articles?

It seems to me that the best thing these companies can do is focus on good things and play a role in dispelling the not so good studies.

Heck, this is something I wanted to do on the Sherpa, but lack the resources....i.e the 13 million to burn on curators. So I select only the most relevant studies for PM and review.

I wonder if they (DTC Genomics) are just pulling up every study possible or if they are actively curating the data.

Because if they are curating, I wonder who is at the helm.

These are the studies they chose for the Norovirus report

Le Pendu et al. (2006) . “Mendelian resistance to human norovirus infections.” Semin Immunol 18(6):375-86.

Lindesmith et al. (2003) . “Human susceptibility and resistance to Norwalk virus infection.” Nat Med 9(5):548-53.

Hutson et al. (2005) . “Norwalk virus infection associates with secretor status genotyped from sera.” J Med Virol 77(1):116-20.

Kindberg et al. (2007) . “Host genetic resistance to symptomatic norovirus (GGII.4) infections in Denmark.” J Clin Microbiol 45(8):2720-2.

Thorven et al. (2005) . “A homozygous nonsense mutation (428G-->A) in the human secretor (FUT2) gene provides resistance to symptomatic norovirus (GGII) infections.” J Virol 79(24):15351-5.

Just from reading the abstracts not a single study had any number greater than 63 symptomatic patients.

Not a single study in my mind had statistical significance required for an association or a linkage study.

What in the hell is going on with the science?

If an apomediary is to be given free reign (Which I argue they should not in medicine), they better prove they are

1. An expert
2. Knowledgeable about the statistics required for the information presented
3. Not given false information, in science, non statistically valid information
4. Not a harm to the people they provide information to.

I think this is an example of a Big Fail here.

Yet they put it out from the rooftops, yelling on twitter, facebook, their blog, ALL OVER.

What in the hell is this information to be used for?

Even if for fun, it doesn't help if scientifically it is suspect. Isn't this what we bashed DNA Dynasty for? If this company wants to do right by people, they shouldn't boost the unimportant to the level of importance......

The biggest problem about this and other examples is the fact that the studies are not being vetted properly and the rushing to make a big deal out of suspect studies. This is analogous to the press publishing some crap study on the news. Which BTW, I have managed to tune out, because most of what they report is wrong. If they were a news organization, I would not be as pissed here, but they are not clearly just a reporting service, despite what SB 482 said.

23andSerge tests human biologic samples and gives diagnoses. As well as promotes unimpressive studies in an attempt to sell more tests......GREAT BIG FAIL!

The Sherpa Says: If this is the example of expert information that patients/customers can use to empower themselves, I would say they (Both 23andSerge and Customers) could do better reading the National Enquirer for health tips...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Steve,

As you know, the business model of DTC genetics companies is not to take care of patients, but sell genetic data to big pharma in the end. Their business model is based on genotyping the maximum number of customers possible, even if they loss money in the process, and offer their data to big pharma. The role of investors in the meantime is to make possible this business model, investing money to allow the DTC companies survive.

They use internet because is a good way to get a lot of customers from all around the world very quickly.

¿How does big pharma get the genetic data of people? In order to do this legally, DTC genetics companies would be sold to big pharma. That’s legal, and it is a pure speculative way to make money, playing with the health of people and their personal data. DTC companies would get a lot of money for the sale, enough to pay off their investors a lot of money and keep everybody happy.

Genentech is investor of 23andme, and Genentech is owned by Roche.

Do you think Roche or any big pharma company may be interested in buying 23andme in the future?

If so, for what purpose? Which advantages would get big pharma by owning poor genetic data of healthy people with phenotypic data obtained from self-questionnaires?

Are DTC genetics companies making a great mistake if they think their data is going to be of interest to big pharma?