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Posted at 10:35 AM ET, 05/25/2011

Genetic testing company promises to prove sports testing accuracy

A Richmond company marketing a genetic test it claims can help match children and adults with sports they are most likely to play well and play safely announced Wednesday it would conduct studies to verify the test’s accuracy.

American International Biotechnology Services announced the step after meeting last week with officials at the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA had sent the company a letter demanding justification for marketing the test without the agency’s approval.

During the meeting with the FDA, the company “committed to working diligently over the next 30 days to submit a plan for performing studies to support Sports X Factor testing,” the company said in a statement.

“AIBioTech believes that everyone has a right to their genetic information without a prescription. Our main goal with Sports X Factor is to provide an affordable means for athletes and parents to access genetic information for the purpose of making informed decisions about maximizing performance while minimizing risk,” CEO Bill Miller said. “We recognize the FDA’s attention to thorough compliance and are pleased to cooperate with the organization at a time when human genomics is coming to fruition under the FDA umbrella.”

The company is one of at least two firms that have started selling tests in the United States that they claim help match youngsters and adults with sports they are genetically programmed to play well. The DNA scans, the first of an expected wave of attempts to use genes to enhance athletic performance, can steer children toward games they are most likely to win, the companies say. The tests also let children and adults tailor their workouts to their inborn skills, the firms say, as well as spot those prone to heart problems, concussions and other injuries.

Critics, however, see the kits as the latest in a flood of questionable genetic tests. No one can accurately gauge the influence of genes on athletic abilities or vulnerabilities, they say. The results may be needlessly alarming or falsely reassuring, they say. Skeptics also fear that the trend will encourage overzealous parents and coaches to push kids into sports they dislike or discourage them from ones they enjoy and might succeed at despite their genes.

The growing availability of DNA scans has spurred excitement about finding genetic clues to ancestry, health and proclivities. But the testing has also raised alarm because genetic data can be misleading, misinterpreted and misunderstood, and it can leave consumers vulnerable to discrimination by employers and insurers.

The plethora of tests has prompted the FDA to begin stepping in, causing one company last year to abandon plans to sell a genetic screen at Walgreens stores, others to discontinue offering tests directly to consumers and some to begin working with the agency to validate their methodology.

The FDA would not comment on American International’s announcement.

By  |  10:35 AM ET, 05/25/2011

 
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