Darko Olivia, Direct-to-Consumer Genetic Testing

Olivia Darko working at desk




Research Assistant Professor of General Internal Medicine

Project Summary

Regulation of Direct-to-Consumer Genetic Testing (DTCGT) in the U.S.

The commercial success of companies like 23andMe and Ancestry demonstrate the growing popularity of direct-to-consumer genetic testing in the United States. Although these tests seem insightful, harmless, and even fun, this new form of information, coupled with loose regulatory oversight, puts consumers at risk in an unknown territory. This summer, I had the pleasure of working with Dr. Genevieve Kanter on a 4,000-word critical review paper discussing DTCGT, including regulation, the market, policy recommendations, and empirical research.

I began the research process by reading the available DTCGT literature from a variety of academic perspectives. I then conducted a literature search of over 150 scholarly papers. Over the course of my PURM experience, I provided Dr. Kanter with reports of my findings on the field and we collaborated to narrow down the focus of our research to federal regulation. I spent the final weeks of the internship writing and editing the paper. During this time, I also assisted Dr. Kanter with data retrieval and cleaning for another project which investigates conflicts of interest in FDA approval of medical devices.

The Penn Undergraduate Research Mentorship program provided me the unique experience of getting an immersive look into the world of research and, most importantly, it gave me a wide variety of invaluable skills. I refined my literature search and review skills, practiced critical writing, and got an introduction into handling digital data. As a Health and Societies major focused on healthcare, finance, and markets, I have been introduced to healthcare policies and their general effects as part of my coursework.  However, working as a part of Dr. Kanter’s lab gave me the unique opportunity to dedicate a significant amount of time and focus to reading and analyzing a particular policy and its effects. I look forward to using the skills and experience I have gained as I continue to get involved with more health policy research during my time at Penn.