23andMe’s Designer Baby Patent
By Dov Fox
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) this week awarded a patent on “gamete donor selection” to 23andMe, the genetic testing company that sells at-home DNA kits directly to consumers. Patent #8,543,339 grants 23andMe exclusive rights to genetic and computer technologies that would enable prospective parents to handpick a sperm or egg donor with whom they would be likely to produce a child born with certain traits that they desire.
It’s not just couples already planning to have a baby together who can use the patented technology to learn the likelihood that their child will inherit certain “phenotypes of interest in the hypothetical offspring.” The patent also covers genetic selection from among a broader menu of options by predicting how a person’s DNA would combine with any number of available donors to produce a child of a particular type.