23andMe in Second Life: LIVE

23andMe, one of the (if not the) most famous companies focusing on personalized genetics, presented a slideshow today in Second Life in the latest session of the Scifoo Lives On series. The speakers were Erin Davis (science writer) and Joyce Tung (human geneticist). The title was 23andMe and 23andWe. Details here.


Live coverage starts (Pacific Time):

  • 9:30: The poster is up, everything seems to be ready. The first speaker, Erin, just arrived. The other residents are having a rest…

  • 9:40: The audience is slowly bigger and bigger. You can also follow us on Twitter. Our speaker, Joyce, just arrived. Here are both speakers:

  • 9:55: A few more people and some weird creatures arrived.

  • 9:58: Here is the crowd. We are really thankful to Second Nature for the place.

  • 10:05: I launched the session.

Welcome on Second Nature island!

Today’s Scifoo lives on session will feature 23andMe, a privately held biotech company focusing on personalized genetics. Two members of their editorial board will present a slideshow about their service, research and the future plans. Please welcome Erin Cline Davis, Ph.D. (SL: Luttibelle Eames ) who received her Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Physiology at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

and Joyce Tung, Ph.D., Human Geneticist (SL: Joyce Footman ) who pursued a Ph.D. in Genetics at the University of California, San Francisco. Please feel free to ask them questions after the presentation. Thank you!

  • 10:10: They started the presentation (excerpts):

  • 10:11: The SNP chip analyzes about 600,000 specific points in the genome that are known to vary. It’s important to understand that this is NOT sequencing, which would look at every single point in the genome.
  • 10:13: Samples are analyzed using an Illumina HumanHap550+ BeadChip plus a SNP chip custom designed by 23andMe scientists. The 23andMe custom SNP chip allows us to analyze the Y chromosome and mitochondrial genome (for paternal and maternal ancestry purposes) in much greater depth than conventional SNP chips.

  • 10:16: While they’re talking about Gene Journal, the audience is growing hugely…

  • 10:18: Your DNA tells you more than just what your genetics say about certain physical traits (such as ear wax type or lactose tolerance) or what conditions you might be at risk for — it can also tell you about where your ancestors came from.
  • 10:21: Sharing your genome is really as simple as sending an invitation. Because we understand that people may have different comfort levels when it comes to sharing their genetic information, we offer two levels of sharing to choose from.
  • 10:24: Here are our two speakers, Joyce and Erin:

  • 10:27: We now turn to 23andWe: 23andWe is consumer enabled research or as we like to call it, Research 2.0.
  • 10:31: It’s important to remember that a version of a SNP that is associated with a condition is not necessarily causing the condition. It may just be a marker that is linked to the truly causative DNA variation.
  • 10:32: Genome wide association studies are in the focus as you can see:

  • 10:35: 23andWe is a new way of doing research that will bring researchers and individuals together in a dynamic, web-based environment. By removing the obstacles of geography and the cost of maintaining multiple study sites, 23andWe hopes to enable large studies that would otherwise be infeasible. 23andWe is a serious research enterprise.
  • 10:38: The process: research proposal, data collection, data analysis, publication…

  • 10:41: We’re very excited about the potential for this project to show how the multimedia capabilities of the web can really enhance health research… We think 23andMe is a first step towards the concept of personalized medicine. We are now able to give customers access to technology that was not that long ago restricted to specialized laboratories. People can actually see what the latest research might mean for them.
  • 10:43: It’s time for questions: How will you get Informed Consents from every person for every study? Who actually owns the DNA results and samples…..?
  • 10:45: That’s a hard one… are you excited/concerned that you are providing the tools for any group of people to get together and self-test on “snake oil” compounds ?
  • 10:48: More and more hard questions… Erin must type fast: we are as concerned as you guys are about privacy. we really have no interest in violating your trust. our business only works if we can maintain your privacy.

  • 10:52: Strange creatures, sometimes strange questions: These tools allow for the other extreme, that is a group of people getting together on their own without medical assistance to self test and analyze. Will this be a problem ?

  • 10:57: Joyce: In the future, we hope to use some of the data from our chip to provide information about copy number variation.
  • 10:59: The question of the day award goes to… and as also Google is involved (is that right?) how long will it take until my search habits will be matched up with my genome? 😉
  • 11:01: Wow, that sounds great: We will be encouraging our users to submit ideas for research studies that we can conduct.
  • 11:04: It’s over! The presentation was fantastic, Erin and Joyce answered all the questions. Thank you, 23andMe for the presentation and Second Nature for the island and place. See you next time!

Live coverage ends…