N.J. scientists launch company to provide cheaper genetic testing

Jessica Perry//August 5, 2013

N.J. scientists launch company to provide cheaper genetic testing

Jessica Perry//August 5, 2013

Two New Jersey scientists have started a company to increase availability of lower-cost genetic tests in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling that declared naturally occurring gene sequences are not patentable.

Professors Christopher Mason, of Weill-Cornell Medical School, and Jeffrey Rosenfeld, of Rutgers University, announced they have formed Genome Liberty, a Bergenfield-based company that sells a saliva-based genetic test for $99. The company has begun a crowdfunding effort to raise capital.

Genome Liberty said tests will inform users what medications they can receive and which might trigger side effects based on that individual’s genetic information. Tests don’t need to be ordered by a doctor, though the company said results should be evaluated by one.

“My goal for Genome Liberty is to allow individuals to have control over their genetic information and to use to improve their health decisions,” Rosenfeld said.

Genome Liberty founders say their test, the Gene-Drug Interaction Test, fills a void because there are clear genetic markers for many medications that will determine whether a person will respond properly or suffer complications from using a particular medicine. The company says many physicians do not believe they have sufficient understanding of genetics to order or interpret such tests.

“It is extremely problematic that people are being given medications that can harm them without doctors pre-emptively performing simple and accurate tests to check for these side effects,” Rosenfeld said.

The test covers commonly prescribed drugs, including Plavix, Prilosec, Zocor and codeine. It also looks for a clotting disorder known as Factor V Leiden, which can cause blood clots among women with that condition who take estrogen.

Rosenfeld said the recent Supreme Court ruling, Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, which declared naturally occurring DNA sequences could not be patented, removes a legal cloud for companies to pursue such endeavors. The ruling did not address cDNA, or synthetic genes that have been altered from original form.

“Now you can test pretty much any piece of DNA without worrying about getting sued about it,” Rosenfeld said. “It’s very hard to start a company if you worrying about getting sued.”

Customers can order a saliva kit through genomeliberty.com and return samples to the company’s lab. Based on the DNA, the company will generate a report within two weeks that the customer can bring to their doctor outlining medications that are recommended or discouraged based on that person’s genetic profile.

Reporter Tom Zanki is @BizTZanki on Twitter.