Personal genomics debacle?

Daniel MacArthur is reporting on today’s big showdown between Congress and genomics testing companies: “A sad day for personal genomics.”

Several companies got hit with a sting by the Government Accounting Office, MacArthur has the audio with captions. My favorite is the agent who was posing as a girl trying to “surprise” her fiancé’ with a DNA test. A company rep who said they had ways to “pretty much repair DNA damage” is a snake who should be stomped on.

There's no denying it: that tape is pure gold for the critics of the DTC testing industry. In the first and third clips, a couple of poorly-trained call centre operators at otherwise reputable companies nonchalantly produce the stake that will now be driven into the heart of the DTC industry, over and over again.

Genotyping is cheap nowadays, but not cheap enough. Crooks see easy marks willing to shovel out $400 at a time; more honest companies can’t turn away too many $400 prospects or else their IPO may tank. Call center employees work with a script, and somebody writes the script and tells them when it’s OK to improvise.

UPDATE (2010-07-23): More from Dan Vorhaus: “From Gulf Oil to Snake Oil: Congress Takes Aim at DTC Genetic Testing.” Also, a response from genomics tester 23andMe: “GAO Studies Science Non-Scientifically.” Maybe it’s a “war on science”…