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Designer babies are just one example of the ethical dilemmas faced by the genomics industry

Illumina CEO Francis deSouza’s company makes machines that let companies like 23andMe understand their customers’ DNA.

Illumina CEO Francis deSouza Asa Mathat
Shirin Ghaffary is a senior Vox correspondent covering the social media industry. Previously, Ghaffary worked at BuzzFeed News, the San Francisco Chronicle, and TechCrunch.

We could live in a future world where people pick and choose the traits their babies have, but it may not be the right thing to do.

It’s just one of the many ethical dilemmas that Francis deSouza, CEO of genomics testing company Illumina, who was interviewed by CNBC’s Christina Farr Wednesday at the Code Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. llumina sells DNA sequencing technology to companies such as 23andMe and

“There was a wealthy industrialist mogul from Silicon Valley who was curious about designer babies for him and his partner,” said deSouza. “With that much power, there are lots of questions that we will have to address about what it means to be human.”

DeSouza said his company has created an ethical advisory board to address these difficult questions. He also discussed the privacy implications of genomic data, which can reveal something like your predisposition for cancer not just for you but for your entire family.

“Your genomic data is not just your own, you share it with your family tree.” said deSouza, adding that “you can be discriminated against for life insurance” because of genomic data.

There are cases where the privacy trade-off has proven valuable for society as a whole, like in the case the Golden State Killer — a serial rapist and murderer — who was caught decades after the case went cold when his DNA was matched to an open source online genomic database.

Watch the full interview here:

CORRECTION: A prior version of this original article misquoted deSouza as saying, “You can be discriminated against for health insurance because of genomic data.” He said you can be discriminated against for life insurance, not health insurance.

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