From symptomatic to pre-symptomatic patient: the tide of personal genomics

part of Know your genes. The marketing of direct-to-consumer genetic testing

Personal Genomics Companies are an emerging form of biotechnology startup that bring rapidly advancing whole genome technologies to a variety of commercial venues. With a combination of direct-to-consumer marketing, social media, and Web 2.0 applications these companies seek to create novel uses, including entertainment, for what is described as predictive medicine – that is the use of genetic marketers to create health forecasts that would allow individual’s healthcare to be tailored to their individual genomic data. In this brief piece, the authors use a critical cultural approach to question how this combination of genomics research, marketing, and communications technologies may alter both patient experiences and research processes. In it we argue these companies radically expand the definition of a patient by claiming all consumers are simply pre-symptomatic patients. Moreover, by placing genomic data on both the marketplace and cyberspace, personal genomic companies seek to create new avenues of research that alter how we define (and access) research agendas and human subjects. Therefore, beyond commonly discussed issues of ethics and privacy rights, Personal Genomics has the potential to alter both healthcare priorities and distribution.