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Seeking genetic fate

Personal genomics companies offer forecasts of disease risk, but the science behind the packaging is still evolving

2:01pm, June 19, 2009

“RESISTANT” shouts the title of Lindsay Richman’s post. Apparently, she was elated to learn that her DNA reduces her susceptibility to norovirus infections, the principal cause of the common stomach flu.

So she posted a comment on a discussion board on the website for 23andMe, a company based in Mountain View, Calif., that specializes in the fledgling industry of personal genomics. To get a glimpse of her own DNA, Richman had sent the company $400 and a vial of her spit. From her point of view, what happened next was a mystery — a black box. But a few weeks later, out popped her results on a password-protected website, complete with social networking tools for sharing and discussing her genetic inheritance with other customers.

In the string of online responses to Richman’s post, others who share her genetic good fortune compared notes on the last time they’d had any symptoms of stomach flu. Richman, a 26-year-old real estate

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