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Genetic Sequencing Machine Accuracy, Cost Larger Problem Than Privacy, Speaker Says

Publication Date: 
October 14, 2013
Privacy & Security Law Report - BNA
Joyce Cutler

Stanford Law Professor Hank Greely weighs in on the privacy issues presented by widespread genetic testing in Privacy and Security Law Report. 

Privacy is a much smaller problem with genetic testing than the accuracy and regulation of devices performing the sequencing and those interpreting the results, a Stanford University genetics and law professor said Oct. 1.

Gene sequencing in the next decade will become a common component of individual electronic health records as the price drops to $500 as soon as 2015, giving rise to a host of regulatory, legal, education and other questions, said Hank Greely, Stanford University professor of law and genetics and chairman of California's Human Stem Cell Research Advisory Committee.

Sequencing machines when used for clinical purposes need to be regulated by the Food and Drug Administration through a premarket approval process, Greely told the Burrill & Co. personalized medicine meeting in San Francisco.


When it comes to privacy, Greely said, the issues “are overblown in a sense.”

“Personally, I would much rather that people have your genomic records than financial or Google search” records, he said, adding that “genomic sequencing is going to exacerbate privacy concerns and lead to new regulation.”

“I think although the privacy issues are important and interesting, they're not nearly the most important and interesting ethical, legal, social issues being raised by these advances in genomic medicine over the next five, 10 or 15 years,” said Greely, who also is chairman of the Steering Committee of the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics.