19 Jul 2012

Personal DNA map wanted by university student

9:35 pm on 19 July 2012

An Otago University student wants to buy a map of his own DNA from a genetics service.

Steve Anderson has asked to have his full genetic coding put onto a computer disk. He would be the first person in New Zealand to do so.

Mapping the three billion pieces of information of an individual's genome became possible a decade ago, but has become affordable only in the past two years. It costs about $4000.

Mr Anderson was once a Wanaka farmer, but is now a university genetics student in his 50s, who wants to make sure he lives into his 80s or 90s.

He says he never expected to be a pioneer when he requested his genome, but the information would help him understand his body as it ages and identify any genetic diseases.

NZ New Zealand Genomics is a Government-funded company that links researchers and businesses with university sequencing machines.

Chief executive Tony Lough says the request is technically easy to fulfil, but it makes him nervous because of the many potential legal, privacy and ethical problems.

Dr Lough initially turned down the idea.

Otago University Dean of Law Mark Henaghan says the company is right to hesitate. He says it is hard to know what a student would do with a disk containing more than three billion pieces of data, or who would help him interpret it.

However, Professor Henaghan says the request should be welcomed because there will soon be many more.

Mr Anderson says he has thought through all the possible problems.