Tuesday, March 24, 2009

23andAda

Happy Ada Lovelace Day!  In an effort to celebrate women excelling in technology, I now present this blog entry, dedicated to Linda Avey and Anne Wojcicki. 

You may have heard of these two ladies... perhaps you read an article about them in Vogue magazine or saw them on Oprah. They've found such notoriety because they are the founders of 23andMe, which Time Magazine heralded "the Invention of the Year" in 2008. 23andMe can be described as social networking meets genetic counseling. It "aims to do for genetics what Google did for the Internet: Make it easy and accessible for those curious about their DNA." (Speaking of Google, Wojcicki happens to be married to Google co-founder Sergey Brin and Google happens to have donated almost $9 million to 23andMe... Coincidence? I think not).

For a one-time fee, 23andMe members can acquire analysis of their personal genome and interact with their own genetic information (and other members' information, if they have permission) within the user-friendly 23andMe website. The data presented by 23andMe can tell members how their risk of contracting particularly diseases compares to the rest of the population, what traits and predispositions they are likely to have, where their ancestors originate from, and lots of other nifty tidbits of information. 

Avey and Wojcicki are not simply concerned with providing the masses their genetic information, they have a more philanthropic master plan. They hope to "collect information for developing and conducting research projects that aim to find the genetic roots of everything from serious conditions like Parkinson's disease to simple physical characteristics like left-handedness." Although it all sounds great, not everyone is a fan of 23andMe. Some individuals have some very serious concerns regarding the legal and ethical implications of the website. However, I think that Avey and Wojcicki created the web-based service with noble intentions and I hope they find continued success and really do make a difference in the end.