As I mentioned previously, the hype of personalized medicine is breeding a new industry-direct to consumer (DTC) Genetic Testing. These companies offer to test, analyze and store your genetic information for you. Navigenics entered this arena in April’08, with some stellar credentials in terms of team, funding (KPCB, among others) and collaborations (Mayo, Partners, Duke, Scripps, MedScape, etc.).
Here is a simple overview of their offering: pay $500 to be tested for 10 common conditions or upgrade to $2,500 for all conditions (28 currently). The upgraded package has perks of genetic counseling, personalized updates and educational content for a year. Beyond that you pay $250/year to keep it going. What sets Navigenics apart (as I understand) is that they only tell you your results from the perspective of these 28 (and growing) conditions whereas others (deCODEme, 23andMe) let you ‘explore’ your results for every trait/condition they are continuously covering.
Regardless of what company it is, the question remains that how much can you learn from you genetic profile? If you are at 64% risk for Diabetes type 2 and 47% risk for macular degeneration, what can you do about it? Well, the advice would mostly include one or more of- exercise, dont smoke, eat healthy, avoid alcohol, sleep well, vitamins, lookout for warning signs etc. So why get the test; you should be doing all that anyways. I’m not knocking down genetic testing per se, just trying to find utility for it in a DTC model.
The future of healtcare is more personalized, for sure. I’m happy that the commercial foundation for it is being laid down right now. But personally, I wouldnt invest in these services till we firmly and clearly establish an end-to-end causal linkage between genes, diasease, and therapy. We havent even agreed on how important is the role of enviornment and habits (is it only genes that determine a disease outcome?) Heck, who said it’s genes- what about proteomics?