Friday, October 24, 2014

Interview with 23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki

Q: How does 23andMe make money? From the data more than the spit kits, surely?

A: We have partnerships with companies all the time–with pharma partners, with academic groups–and one of our main goals is to dramatically accelerate the pace of research.

One of the ways I can do that is by enabling individuals, instead of having to start a study de novo and recruit a thousand people with Parkinson’s, to get access to the database. Someone might come to us and say, we want to see if there are any genetic variants associated with people with asthma. Or someone might hypothesize that a variant in a gene is associated with a disease, and we can do a data query. Instead of actually having to do clinical trials the old-fashioned way, we could enable researchers to get their answers instantaneously. And they pay us for that.

There’s still a lot of redundancy in this industry because of competition. Part of my goal is to eliminate some of that commodity competition. If you’re going to be in a study for runners, you don’t want Harvard and have them sequence you and then have Princeton sequence you and then go to Pfizer to have them sequence you. Traditionally when you talk to people who have Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, they’ll talk about how they’re in five or six studies and they’ve been sequenced by each study. That’s just fat in the system. Just have a single data set that then you can share. You can make the entire system more efficient.

Q: Can you provide any recent examples of how pharma or other companies have used 23andMe data?

A: One of the projects we did was a study called InVite, with Genentech and Avastin. We were trying to recruit individuals who had been on Avastin for a long time who were seen as more highly responsive to it and see if there was a genetic association for why they were responding so well.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.

- Bertrand Russell

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Beer Consumption "***" Human Attractiveness to Malaria Mosquitoes

- Full paper here

Quote of the Day

None of us actually lives as though there were no truth. Our problem is more with the notion of a single, unchanging truth.

The word 'true' suggest a relationship between things: being true to someone or something, truth as loyalty, or something that fits, as two surfaces may be said to be 'true.' It is related to 'trust,' and is fundamentally a matter of what one believes to be the case. The Latin word verum (true) is cognate with a Sanskrit word meaning to choose or believe: the option one chooses, the situation in which one places one's trust. Such a situation is not an absolute - it tells us not only about the chosen thing, but also about the chooser. It cannot be certain: it involves an act of faith and it involves being faithful to one's intentions.

- Iain McGilchrist, The Master and His Emissary

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Teach the Hour of Code in Your Classroom

Most kids don’t know what computer science is. Here are some ideas:
  • Explain it in a simple way that includes examples of applications that both boys and girls will care about (saving lives, helping people, connecting people, etc.).
  • Try: "Think about things in your everyday life that use computer science: a cell phone, a microwave, a computer, a traffic light… all of these things needed a computer scientist to help build them.”
  • Or: “Computer science is the art of blending human ideas and digital tools to increase our power. Computer scientists work in so many different areas: writing apps for phones, curing diseases, creating animated movies, working on social media, building robots that explore other planets and so much more."
  • See tips for getting girls interested in computer science here.
- More Here

Quote of the Day

Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.

- William Morris

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Moral Purpose of Telling Koko the Gorilla How Robin Williams Died

According to press reports, Koko, the gorilla adept at sign language, seemed saddened to hear the news of the death of Robin Williams, whom the gorilla met once in 2001 (and bonded with immediately). I cannot fathom the ethical reasoning behind telling Koko about Williams's death. What is the point of telling her about the death of someone she met once, 13 years ago? The press reports dwelt on the fact that she appeared sad. I don't think any of us can know if she was sad or not — but even if this news opens the possibility of making her unhappy, it seems cruel to bring this into her life. What moral purpose does it serve? RITA LONG, OAKLAND, CALIF.


Klosterman then taps into the knowledge of a a noted veterinarian and author, Vint Virga, for more in-depth analysis because why not? We're already here.

"I would set aside the issue of the animal's cognitive intelligence and focus on the concept of an animal's emotional intelligence, which studies continue to show is much greater than we previously imagined. Animals and humans both experience joy and sadness throughout their life. Why would you want to shelter a gorilla from that experience? I believe a gorilla absolutely has the ability to understand the loss of someone who was important to her, and animals are often able to deal with grieving and loss more effectively than humans."

- More Here

Quote of the Day

I see nothing funny about baldness. The fact that I, personally, have reached age 42 without any significant hair loss does NOT mean that I have the right to make insensitive remarks about those of you whose heads are turning into Mosquito Landing Zones.

- Dave Barry

Monday, October 20, 2014

Quote of the Day

That’s not a world of selfishness or greed. It’s a world of cooperation and mutual benefit through the pursuit of self-interest, enabling satisfying lives not only for the Hank Reardens of the world but for factory workers. I still want to live there.

…In scene after scene, Rand shows what such a community would be like, and it does not consist of isolated individualists holding one another at arm’s length. Individualists, yes, but ones who have fun in one another’s company, care about one another, and care for one another—not out of obligation, but out of mutual respect and spontaneous affection.

Ayn Rand never dwelt on her Russian childhood, preferring to think of herself as wholly American. Rightly so. The huge truths she apprehended and expressed were as American as apple pie. I suppose hardcore Objectivists will consider what I’m about to say heresy, but hardcore Objectivists are not competent to judge. The novels are what make Ayn Rand important. Better than any other American novelist, she captured the magic of what life in America is supposed to be. The utopia of her novels is not a utopia of greed. It is not a utopia of Nietzschean supermen. It is a utopia of human beings living together in Jeffersonian freedom.

- Charles Murray on Ayn Rand