Genomic Entrepreneurs Promise to Personalize Medicine

Laird Harrison

September 26, 2014

SANTA CLARA, California — The era of personalized medicine continues to advance with the introduction of products that can analyze genes, developers report.

"Eventually, everyone will have their genome sequenced," said Reid Robison, MD, MBA, from Tute Genomics. "Imagine a world in which your medical care is 100% unique. Every diagnosis, every medication, every dietary guideline can be tailored to you and only you."

Dr. Robison and other genomics experts presented their ideas here at Health 2.0 Annual Fall Conference.

Tute Genomics uses machine-learning algorithms to analyze an individual's genome for susceptibility to genetic disorders and adverse drug reactions. Tute is making its findings available to patients, clinicians, and researchers.

BaseHealth goes a step further, said Jorge Velarde Jr., MBA, who is chief executive officer and president of the company. Genomics information from partner companies is combined with lab results, family history, nutrition information from questionnaires, and other data. "Not only do we collect it once, but we are constantly collecting," he said.

The company produces charts and graphs to show patients how they can alter their risk for conditions like type 2 diabetes. For example, it might compare the benefits of lowering triglycerides with the benefits of lowering blood pressure.

"We rank your risks so you can actually focus on what is important to you," he said.

Some patients might need more than a chart to help them interpret the significance of their genomes.

Imagine a world in which your medical care is 100% unique.

To fill that gap, Counsyl provides educational videos related to the findings. People who have questions can contact a human genetic counselor through the program's interface, explained Laura Martini, director of product design, who represented the company during the session.

The future of personalized medicine "is not just the raw data, it's having access to healthcare professionals who can help make sense of it and discuss next steps," said Martini.

Helping genomics researchers get paid for their work is the aim of YouGene, said technical officer Ryan Downs. Each time a clinician prescribes a test that uses a patented biomarker, YouGene collects a royalty and disburses it to the patent holder.

The program benefits clinicians by giving them access to the newest tests, benefits researchers by paying them for their work, benefits insurers by lowering the cost of healthcare, and benefits patients by encouraging more research, Downs explained.

"What we provide is the liquidity between all these stakeholders," he said. "It helps grease the wheels of innovation."

During the discussion period after the session, an audience member asked whether the companies are legally liable for their interpretation of a patient's data. "If I want to take a test, do I have to sign your disclaimer," he asked. "Can people sue you?"

Martini explained that users do have to sign waivers. "That's very standard with every sort of lab test. We don't use the data for anything beyond clinical use and research," she noted.

Velarde reported that the program at BaseHealth complies with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 and the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988. "The information is delivered by a physician," he said.

Health 2.0 Annual Fall Conference. Presented September 24, 2014.


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