Stephane Budel has an idea for an app, and it goes like this. You get your DNA sequenced to find out which comic book superhero you are.
Now bear with us for a minute: The test, Budel explains, could look at the similarity between genes found in both humans and spiders to give you a Spiderman score—and other genes for a Hulk score and so on. “It gives you your breakdown, like you’re 30 percent Superman, 20 percent Ironman, and 50 percent the Hulk,” says Budel, who has been kicking the idea around with Eric Lakin, a former colleague at DeciBio, the life sciences market research and consulting firm where Budel is partner.
We are, to be clear, talking about fictional superheroes and the idea for a hypothetical app. But Budel really is serious. (“I’m telling you, this app is going to get developed and whoever does it is going to make a lot of money.”) As the economics of DNA sequencing change, consumer genetic tests aimed at lifestyle and wellness—rather than health—are a burgeoning unregulated market. These DNA tests won’t tell you about your cancer risk, but they might give you wine based on your taste genes or suggest personalized exercise regimens.
What these kinds of DNA test start to resemble are magazine quizzes or horoscopes. At times, the science connecting DNA sequence and test result is just as shaky. And in the case of superheroes, well, it’s an explicit leap into fantasy. “Fun” was the word I kept hearing to describe these tests. We once looked to the stars to amuse, enlighten, and guide us; now we can look to DNA.