Genetics

Genetics Investing

Privacy has long slowed investment in longevity. However, the popularity of private genetics testing companies suggests that may be set to change.

Longevity investing, long the purview of deeply passionate fringe investors, is undeniably becoming more mainstream, spurred by an aging population interested in extending the healthy human lifespan. 
However, despite this growing acceptance, privacy concerns continue to create problems for the longevity industry — put simply, progress in the space has been impeded by people’s unwillingness to share their genetic data. Luckily, as personal genomics companies increase in visibility and popularity, that is starting to change. It seems as though the dawn of personal genetics is here, and the shift could directly benefit longevity research and investing.

Privacy concerns impede investment

As mentioned, in the past privacy concerns have greatly inhibited longevity research and investing. People want to protect their genetic data, and longevity researchers seeking to extend the human lifespan have suffered as a result. 
This unwillingness to share genetic data has been lambasted by those who believe it could spur scientific advances. Indeed, at a recent Wall Street Journal technology conference in California, Google Ventures CEO Bill Marais cautioned against this inclination to privilege privacy over research, stating that “we’re all going to die” sooner if we don’t share genetic information. “What are you worried about?” he challenged the audience.

Implications of DNA sharing

Of course, there are also arguments against sharing genetic data. For example, Popular Science reported earlier this month that Michael Usry was arrested on the charge of murder for an unsolved case from 1996 in Idaho. The police tracked him down via DNA submitted by his father to Ancestry.com (NASDAQ:ACOM), a popular private DNA testing service.
Although Usry was ultimately released as innocent after submitting his own DNA to the authorities, this story illustrates the ways in which privacy concerns and DNA testing intersect. Many people are made uncomfortable by the idea that personal genetic data could be accessed by the authorities, or other unintended parties.

Changing values

Despite these concerns, the general attitude towards sharing genetic information is shifting. While in the past privacy was seen as being of the utmost importance, now personal genetics companies like Ancestry.com and 23andMe, a personal genomics and biotechnology company, are becoming more successful and popular.
The genetic data gathered by these companies will go a long way towards furthering longevity research, and longevity investors can take some heart in knowing that doors may be set to open for further advances in the industry. 
 
Securities Disclosure: I, Morag McGreevey, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

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