TS Picks: April 29, 2015

Journal explains embryo-editing publication; genetic-testing firms enter drug development; questioning a “disruptive” technology

Apr 29, 2015
Tracy Vence

WIKIMEDIA, RWJMS IVF PROGRAM

Selections from The Scientist’s reading list:
 

  • In an April 28 editorial, Protein & Cell explained its decision to publish a controversial paper in which researchers reported editing a gene in early human embryos. “Protein & Cell has fully realized that this study can provide direct evidences to address some of the safety concerns of the CRISPR/Cas9 technique,” wrote Xiaoxue Zhang, the journal’s managing editor. “Until a consensus on new regulatory rules can be reached, it is in the best interest of all parties that the research field should voluntarily avoid any study that may pose potential safety and/or ethical risks.” (Hat tip: ScienceInsider)
     
  • As genetic-testing companies such as 23andMe dive into drug development and social networking-based platforms like “Genes for Good” aim to gather large quantities of genetic data, it’s clear that commercial interest in this information is growing, Nature News reported this week (April 28). “Recent moves by US regulators have given the firms fresh hope that the large genetic data sets they amass will have commercial as well as scientific value, spawning diagnostic tests or drugs.”
     
  • Theranos Chief Executive Officer Elizabeth Holmes has for years touted the promise of her firm’s blood-based diagnostic technology, raising millions of dollars to roll it out on a large scale. But as Business Insider reported last week (April 25), “the technical details about Theranos’ seemingly revolutionary tests are hard to come by, and the company is known for its secrecy about its founder’s invention.” Indeed, according to Jerry Yeo of the University of Chicago, Theranos “completely bypassed the traditional process of peer review or publishing in peer-reviewed journals or having peer labs evaluate their product.” Emory University’s David Koch, president of the American Association for Clinical Chemistry, added, “It’s impossible to comment on how good this is going to be—it may be wonderful and it may bomb, but I really can’t be more definitive because there’s nothing to really look at, to read, to react to.”