Not a good week for the Wojcicki family. Googler Susan Wojcicki has been caught making expensive demands on Google's daycare facilities. Meanwhile, her sister Anne, wife of Google cofounder Sergey Brin, is fending off cease-and-desist letters from pesky health regulators. Anne's company, Google-backed 23andMe, was told to stop offering the tests until officials could complete an investigation into whether sales to California residents were by doctor's orders, as required by state law. The genetics startup risks fines of up to $3,000 a day if it doesn't comply.
Personal gene sequencing is all the rage among technophiles. But the medical establishment isn't necessarily on board — for starters, no insurance company will cover the cost, and doctors aren't always prepared to appropriately evaluate the results of a test. In an editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers concluded that the time for personalized genetic testing is "Not now — ask again in a few years." 23andMe, which was cofounded by Sergey Brin's wife Anne Wojcicki and counts Google as an investor, offers a test for the low, low price of $1,000. New startup Navigenics will do the same for $2,500. But they will only sequence a few known genes, there are a lot of caveats in the fine print, and there are serious privacy concerns. So what's the upside?