Google Knows What’s in Your Inbox, But It Shouldn’t Get Your Genome Without Consent

Originally posted in the Timmerman Report

I once had an idea for a science fiction story where everyone was paranoid about their genetic information getting out because of a misguided belief that genes equal destiny and that the burden of privacy is all on the individual. People would wear protective suits and carefully guard against leaving any iota of tissue out in public—not a single follicle or skin flake. All to prevent anyone else—potential employers, rivals, even potential lovers—finding out information about their genes.

I planned the story as a satire, taking our current world where Precision Medicine and cheap genome sequencing and not-quite-as-cheap genome interpretation are real things, and extrapolating to an absurdity. I wanted to highlight the kinds of more realistic challenges we might face as we learn more about our genes and face increasing questions about privacy and access to health care services. Of course, I thought this was completely speculative; I’d just be building a straw man story to make a point. I knew something this extreme would never really happen.

But maybe I was wrong. Continue reading

Could pro sports lead us to wellness?

Comment From Bill
St. Louis is being hindered in the stretch drive by some kind of GI bug passing through (so to speak) the team. Reports have as many as 15 guys down with it at once. That seems a lot, but given the way a baseball clubhouse works, my question is why don’t we see more of that? Answering that baseball players are fanatically interested in sanitation and hygiene ain’t gonna cut it, I don’t think…

Dave Cameron: They have access to a lot of drugs.

–comment from a chat at Fangraphs, September 24, 2014

So this comment caught my eye. Ever since I began following sites like and, and reading things like Moneyball, I’ve found myself thinking about efficiency and unappreciated or unexplored resources in different situations.

I realize this was a throwaway line in a baseball chat. But it piqued my interest because it seems to point out something that’s maybe underappreciated and understudied about how sports teams go about their business–specifically, the kinds of things they do to keep their athletes healthy.

My question is, does this represent a potential source of “Found Research” data that could help the rest of us reach wellness? Continue reading

When a grand old scientist talks, you listen: Maynard Olson and Genomic Medicine

All opinions are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of Novo Nordisk.

Last night I had the great opportunity to hear Maynard Olson give a public lecture on Genomic Medicine.  As one of the founders of the Human Genome Project, he’s been around in a pivotal role for much of the revolution in our understanding of the genome.  A revolution, as he himself points out, that we are still just beginning.

He gave his speech as part of the UW Genome Sciences Department’s summer lecture series, and spoke to a packed auditorium about how the information we are learning about the genome has implications for diagnostics, therapeutics, and public policy.  I’ve heard Maynard speak before, and he’s always refreshingly down-to-earth, candid and measured in his descriptions and comments.  Not for him are flights of speculation or hyperbole, and he actually ended his talk with a call to stop the hype.  As he said, “The product is solid.  It doesn’t need hype.”  Maynard, who is slim, with a fringe of red hair that’s silvering at the sides (kind of like Reed Richards), does not look at all near his age of about seventy years. Continue reading