Genetic Tests: Future or Fad?

They may take away my bachelor's in genetics for this, but I have to admit, I'm not interested in having a genomewide test run on my DNA. More specifically, I'm not interested in shelling out a thousand bucks to find out minute details about my genes.

Last week, deCODE genetics (Nasdaq: DCGN  ) announced that it's accepting subscriptions for its DNA testing service, deCODEme, which will test 1 million DNA variants using biochips from Illumina (Nasdaq: ILMN  ) . That's a lot of variants, but it skips the rare -- but more definitive -- traits such as mutations in BRCA1, which drastically increases the risk of developing breast cancer. Instead, the test will concentrate on genes that lead to "obvious and potentially quirky traits."

The service will compete against the recently launched service from 23andMe, which has backing from Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) and Genentech (NYSE: DNA  ) . Both companies have a Web 2.0 aspect in that you can share your genetic information among family and friends on the companies' websites. Learning about one's ancestry may be the potential driver of new customers for the foreseeable future, and the late-November launches were probably an effort to get rich Aunt Mildred to buy genetic tests for everyone for Christmas.

While I think this information is interesting, I'm just not sure these tests will become wildly popular until their prices come down. Investors looking to invest in genetic tests would be better off investing in companies -- like Rule Breakers pick Myriad Genetics (Nasdaq: MYGN  ) , Genzyme (Nasdaq: GENZ  ) , or even deCODE -- that offer tests for specific diseases that might run in an individual's family. As medicine gets more personal, specific genetic tests will have a lot more value to patients than genomewide tests.

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