Communication & Medicine, Vol 8, No 1 (2011)

Promissory Strategies of Personalisation in the Commercialisation of Genomic Knowledge

Michael Arribas-Ayllon, Srikant Sarangi, Angus Clarke
Issued Date: 8 Nov 2011


As part of personalised medicine emerging from the human genomics revolution, many websites now offer direct-to-consumer genetic testing. Here, we examine three personal genomics companies – Navigenics, deCODEme and 23andMe – each of which represents contrasting registers of ‘personalisation’. We identify three distinctive registers in these websites: a paternalistic (medical) register; a translational (scientific) register and a democratic (consumerist) register. We explore in detail the rhetorical and discourse devices employed in these websites to assess how personalised healthcare is promised to the public. Promising information that will empower prevention of common complex diseases and ensure better quality of life is conflated with promising greater access to personal information. The presence and absence of scientific legitimacy is related to concerns about accuracy and validity on the one side, and fears of paternalism and elitism on the other. Nevertheless, a common strategy uniting these different styles of personalisation is consumer empowerment. Finally, we consider the tension between the drive of translational medicine to make human genomic research practically relevant, and the intrinsic uncertainties of scientific research and show how, in the commercial domain, future risks are transformed into discourses of promise by concealing these uncertainties

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DOI: 10.1558/cam.v8i1.53


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