The business of genetic testing

The business of genetic testing

Genetic profile

Personal gene testing is becoming more affordable

Is genetic testing the next big business opportunity?

The extraordinary breakthroughs in the science of genetics in recent years have big commercial implications, and not just for drugs and other treatments. One area with huge potential for profit is genetic testing for consumers, healthy people who want to be able to read their genetic horoscope.

Now you can send off a sample of saliva and buy a personalised read-out of part of your DNA blueprint, without going through doctors.

One of the companies which offers this kind of testing is the California-based '23 and me', so named, because all of us have 23 pairs of chromosomes. Prices start at $399 - the company will survey your genes, and provide you with a long list of health predispositions and risks for various diseases. Linda Avey, the co-founder of the company told the BBC's Lesley Curwen what the company offers its customers.

Listen to Linda Avey (5 mins 27 secs)

However there are questions about whether people's health insurance may be affected by taking this kind of test. And most importantly, some scientists argue that genomic profiling does not yet provide strong enough evidence to give people a clear idea of their health risks.

So how useful are these tests in medical terms - and can consumers understand the risk profile that they're given anyway? Professor Mark Rothsteen is President of the American Society of Law, Medicine and Ethics.

Listen to Mark Rothsteen (3 mins 25 secs)

First broadcast on World Business News on March 20 2009