Searching For Answers In DNA

It wasn't the usual kind of launch party for a Silicon Valley startup.

"This is a spit party," said Matt Crenson, a science writer for the company 23 And Me.

In the "spit lounge," guests provide a sample of their DNA for decoding, CBS News correspondent John Blackstone reports.

"Why did you decide to do this?" Blackstone asked one guest.

"Well, uh, curiosity first and foremost," said partygoer James Joaquin. "I think that understanding our own genetics is the final frontier of information."

The spit collectors work for a website called "23 and Me."

The site's founders are Anne Wojcicki and Linda Avey. Their idea: Decode anyone's DNA for just $1,000 - a relative bargain.

"Even probably five years ago to do what we are doing would have cost well over a $100,000," Wojcicki said.

Those who pay get a personal genetic profile online.

Wojcicki gave an online tour: "This is in my account. This is Linda's account."

The website explains what their DNA may mean.

"According to two genetic markers, I have higher risk for breast cancer," Wojcicki said.

Only slightly higher, but still a warning to consider some preventive medicine.

She said: "Should I have a baseline mammogram, should I actually become more concerned."

The boom in genetic research means that just like a cholesterol check today, genetic profiling may one day become a routine part of preventive medicine.

"All of us believe that getting this information out was inevitable, and therefore 23 and Me is just one of the first to get it out, but it is this is a tsunami that's coming, the technology is there," said Russ Altman of Stanford University.

23 and Me has its own interesting DNA. Anne Wojcicki is married to Sergey Brin, one of the billionaire founders of Google, so she knows what he's made of - besides money.

"We actually have his whole family as part of it and my whole family," Wojcicki said.

23 and Me aims to do for genetics what Google did for the Internet: make it easy and accessible for those curious about their DNA.

And curiosity may be in our genes.

  • John Blackstone

    From his base in San Francisco, CBS News correspondent John Blackstone covers breaking stories throughout the West. That often means he is on the scene of wildfires, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and rumbling volcanoes. He also reports on the high-tech industry in Silicon Valley and on social and economic trends that frequently begin in the West.