It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and possibilities of at-home genetic testing. And we should be energized by the new insights these tests can provide about everything from our heritage to our fitness profile. But there’s a broad spectrum of the information you can receive from genetic tests, particularly when it comes to your health—from risks around Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and certain cancers to tests only available through a medical professional’s directive. How do you know which tests are appropriate for you? And once you have this information, what can or should you do with it?
Whether you’re a healthcare professional or a patient, Genome Medical hopes to guide this often complex journey of self-discovery and medical innovation. In less than one minute, the Genetic Medical Navigator helps you to determine what kind of genetic testing is most relevant for your life. You can also schedule a consultation with a genetic expert to relay your goals, concerns, or fears. For the larger healthcare ecosystem, Genome Medical hopes to provide a navigational compass for the expanding field of genetic testing, and how it can be applied to improve care, inform diagnoses and treatment, and reduce costs.
I chatted with Lisa Alderson, co-founder & CEO, at the Health 2.0 conference to uncover more.
Let’s start by talking about your company relative to the competition because there are many genetic testing companies out there. What’s differentiating you?
First, Genome Medical is a telegenomics technology and services company. We are the first nationwide medical practice specializing in genomics. Think of us as having two pillars of strength: we have deep clinical knowledge and expertise in genomics, and we have a technology platform that enables us to deliver care more efficiently. We’re a navigator to help consumers, patients and providers better harness the power of genomics and that includes understanding: first, which patients should get tested; second, what tests to order, at which point we work with many different labs; and third, how to interpret and integrate the resulting information into ongoing clinical care.
There is growing interest from consumers in genetics and genomics. I see the field evolving to where part of the information is accessible to the individual directly; that in itself is consumer empowerment and engagement. This is a rapidly growing market which includes companies like 23andMe, Ancestry and Helix. The second market is the mainstream medical market which is the primary market today and is growing at approximately 20% to 25% year-over-year. These clinical genetic tests must be ordered by a doctor. They enable us to better understand someone’s predisposition to disease, more accurately diagnose disease and select therapeutics for more informed clinical care.
So, talk to me about how you work with physicians, and how you’re partnering not just for individuals’ care but for care across the continuum.
Genomics is the future of medicine and yet our health systems are not well-prepared to deal with the onslaught of new genomic information. We finally have the technology, the medicine and the science to harness the power of the genome. Genome Medical partners with hospitals, health systems and provider groups to bring clinical genetic expertise to their patients. And we do that first, through having geneticists and genetic counselors as part of our team, and then second, through our innovation and how we deliver our services to be able to touch more lives.
Let’s switch gears toward brand. What’s the brand experience like for your audience?
The brand to me is really critical, particularly in the field in which we operate. I want Genome Medical to stand for great medicine, great science and a great customer experience. For the consumer—the patient—we want to be the trusted navigator. For the physician, we want to provide the clinical expertise that gives them the confidence and knowledge in how to guide patient care.
For consumers, genetic testing can have a strange impact; if someone finds that he or she has no genetic predispositions, it can be, oddly, a bit anticlimactic in his or her journey. How are you engaging with this person, and are there still benefits to the process?
We all have a genome; it’s one of the number one factors that affects our health. We’ve just never had access to it before. So many people go into the process with an expectation that it will deliver a great insight or a profound impact in terms of a change in clinical care. This does happen some of the time—about one out of every six people will have an actionable finding.
The better way to think about it is that our knowledge of what is causative of disease is evolving, and so you may harness value from your genetic information over time. We know a lot more today than we did five years ago, and that knowledge base will continue to grow.
For an individual who pursues testing without an indication, you might think about it like going in for a screening test, such as a mammogram, and expect or want this to produce a negative result. If an individual receives a positive result, this can change the course of their clinical care, and presents an opportunity to be far more proactive about managing one’s health.
For all genetic tests, it’s really important to understand what was tested for as there are a wide range of tests in the market today and they are not all created equal. These are complex subjects and complex topics, which is where Genomic Medical’s genetic specialists come in to guide an individual and figure out the right genetic journey for that individual.
As you mentioned, the future of genomics is rapidly evolving. So where do you see us going? And what will the consumer journey look like in the future?
Genomics is a life-long journey. In the future, every individual will be sequenced, and that record of genomic data will become meaningful throughout their life. In life, there are natural milestones where your genome may be really informative. Some examples include thinking about having children, being pregnant or reaching the typical age of onset for an ailment like cancer or cardiovascular disease. I think about it this way: How do we give people the tools to inform the appropriate care at these different milestones? That makes the journey a lifelong trajectory. When coupled with the evolution of the science, medicine and technology, chances are you won’t be sequenced just once in life.
Genomics is a central component of how we better understand a patient’s clinical care and needs. It’s really a building block for the future of precision medicine. Today, we largely treat individuals on one standard of care. In the future we will treat individuals around risk so that a high-risk population will receive more active surveillance or preventive measures, and then there will be even further segmentation in how we treat disease based on one’s genome. We’ll be able to select the right drug for the right patient at the right time. This is the long-standing promise of precision medicine which is still largely unrealized, but we’re now moving towards that future.
We’ve been on this trajectory where genetic testing has been highly rationed, largely due to high price, and we’re now moving into a world where there’s greater access, and far more clinical utility for testing. I fundamentally believe that in the next five years, we’ll start testing every cancer patient, and then every cardiovascular patient, and then eventually every person with a genome which is—everyone. Before we can start to test the patient population at large, we need solutions to deliver genomic medicine at scale. This is the future Genome Medical is working toward.
Get more insights in our Q&A series.