Time magazine has released its top inventions for the year, and topping the list is the much-heralded 23andMe retail DNA sequencing kit. Beyond the hype factor, which is bolstered by Sergey Brin’s wife being the co-founder, the question is what can people get from getting such a test done at this stage.

Don’t get me wrong – sequencing technology and its move into the retail domain have been a long time coming and will take part in changing the medical landscape in the coming decades. However, this is the problem these test currently face – it will take that long to change from a cool, futuristic gimmick which gives people taking it in-depth knowledge about their genome and the diseases they may be more likely to have over their lifetime to a test result which can directly lead to targeted preventive therapy and compensating for any potential problems stemming from specific underpar genes.

The 23andMe test

The 23andMe test

No doubt, the big cheeses who have invested in this venture (google, among others) realize very well that it is a long-term effort that will take many years to fulfill its promise. Moreover – this fulfillment will not come from the company but rather from medical research moving forward and ushering in  the much vaunted era of personalized medicine.

Once again, a few years off as yet.

However, this does not spoil the chance for all the luddites to cry foul and cite all sorts of reasons why this development should be restricted. As expected, many will try to piggyback on an emerging, potentially paradigm-changing development and make some noise, each for their own agenda.

The potential of personalized medicine is so huge – it will become as commonplace as current medicine is, for the simple reason that targeting medicinces to patients by their unique genetics will make therapies more safe, effective and will thus increase both life quality and length. And that is what medicine is all about, and what patients will want.


TIME’s Best Inventions of 2008