New applications of DNA analysis: prospects and risks. An interdisciplinary technology assessment

Project Lead: Erich Griessler
Team: Alexander Lang, Johannes Starkbaum, Florian Winkler, Milena Wuketich
Duration: 2019-2020
Funding: TA-SWISS Foundation for Technology Assessment
Kooperation: Open Science (Brigitte Gschmeidler, Elena Kinz), Universität Luzern (Malte Gruber, Vagias Karavas)

The development of DNA sequencing and analysis technology has made it possible to analyze DNA faster and more cost-efficient than ever before. This has led to a more widespread use of DNA analysis for different purposes outside of established fields such as science or medicine. This interdisciplinary technology assessment study investigates new applications of DNA-analysis. It focuses on genetic tests directly marketed to consumers for ancestry research (creating a ‘genetic family tree’) and lifestyle purposes (e.g. nutrition) that can be conducted without medical counseling. Furthermore, it investigates the application of DNA analysis for the forensic goal of DNA phenotyping (recreating a person’s appearance from their DNA). The study reviews the state of the art of DNA sequencing in these application areas and analyzes related opportunities and risks. It explores the social, ethical, and legal implications and challenges related to this technology and linked social practices.