Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Gene Choices & Choice Genes

The United States Patent and Trademark Office ("USPTO") issued United States Patent Number 8,543,339 to 23andMe, Inc. on September 24, 2013.  The patent is entitled "Gamete Donor Selection Based On Genetic Calculations."  Here is the abstract:
Gamete donor selection includes receiving a specification including a phenotype of interest, receiving a genotype of a recipient and a plurality of genotypes of a respective plurality of donors, determining statistical information pertaining to the phenotype of interest based at least in part on different pairings of the genotype of the recipient and a genotype of a donor in the plurality of donors, and identifying a preferred donor among the plurality of donors, based at least in part on the statistical information determined.
Here is Claim 1 of the patent, as issued by the USPTO:
A system for gamete donor selection comprising: one or more processors configured to: receive a specification including a phenotype of interest that can be present in a hypothetical offspring; receive a genotype of a recipient and a plurality of genotypes of a respective plurality of donors; determine statistical information including probabilities of observing the phenotype of interest resulting from different combinations of the genotype of the recipient and genotypes of the plurality of donors; and identify a preferred donor among the plurality of donors, based at least in part on an evaluation of the statistical information determined, including: to compare the probabilities of observing the phenotype of interest resulting from different combinations of the genotype of the recipient and the genotypes of the plurality of donors to identify the preferred donor; and a memory coupled to the processor, configured to provide the processor with instructions.
Assuming that 23andMe develops this concept into a commercial service, choosing the genetic traits of one's baby may soon be as easy as a few mouse-clicks and the swipe of a credit card.  As I suggested in a 2008 article entitled "Patenting Human Evolution" (freely available here) and a 2009 article entitled "Open and Proprietary Biological Innovation in Human Genetic Enhancement" (freely available here), patents may soon be a selective force that helps drive human evolution.  Perhaps this patent is a harbinger. 

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