Berkeley Gene Testing Program Scaled Back

A novel experiment at the University of California (UC), Berkeley, that involved analyzing the genomes of new students has run into legal trouble. The academics who came up with the idea, including UC Berkeley geneticist Jasper Rine, say they wanted to create an educational experience that would illustrate the risks and benefits of personal genome analysis. But state health officials told the university this week that the scheme to sequence and analyze the DNA of individual volunteers would be a form of unapproved medical practice, according to reports in the San Jose Mercury News. (GenomeWeb and Nature has good coverage on the backstory and why scientists were interested.)

Rine and UC Berkeley's dean of biological sciences, Mark Schlissel, disagreed with the health department. They argued at a state assembly hearing on Tuesday that the restrictive rules on medical practice should not apply to research. But Rine announced yesterday that, although the university will collect and analyze DNA as planned, it will not disclose individual results to the students.