DNA of the stars -- StarGene creates trading cards laced with celebrity genes

By Jane Birnbaum
Updated October 30, 1992 at 05:00 AM EST

Collectors routinely shell out big bucks for Hollywood memorabilia. Now a San Rafael, Calif.-based company called StarGene is hoping it can interest stars, fans — and investors — in plastic trading cards embedded with actual strands of celebrities’ DNA molecules, the genetic building blocks of life.

This super-high-tech scheme might be quickly dismissed if not for its promoter, Kary Mullis, 47, who was nominated this year for a Nobel Prize for his 1989 discovery of a chemical process that multiplies traces of DNA. ”We’re not desperately trying to make money,” says Mullis, who will sell the cards for a projected price of $9.95 each. ”This is a way to popularize people’s understanding of DNA. We wouldn’t do it if it would only benefit us.”

To obtain stars’ DNA, StarGene will ask them to donate locks of hair, fingernail clippings, or skin scrapings. Then, using the process he discovered, Mullis will replicate the DNA molecules, putting a dab of them inside a hologram on each trading card, which will also feature some biographical data and a drawing of the star ”to emphasize familial genetic traits.”

StarGene already has received a refusal from one agent, who feared that fans who became ill after handling a DNA trading card might try to hold the client liable. But Mullis says the cards’ DNA will be treated to make it ”biologically inactive,” adding, ”You won’t be able to grow Elvis Presley’s lips with it.”