- Genetic testing company 23andMe is exploring consumer interest in a pricier service that would allow people to delve deeper into their DNA profile, CNBC reports.
- Sources familiar with the plan said the company has been notifying some of its users about a $749 premium product, but there was no further information when they clicked on the link. 23andMe's highest priced service currently goes for $199.
- A 23andMe spokeswoman confirmed it is trying to gauge interest in an upscale product, but said there is no immediate plan to launch one.
DNA testing is riding the dual waves of preventive care and personalized medicine. If patients and providers can identify genetic vulnerabilities, there's a better chance they can avert a serious illness or catch and treat it earlier. At the same time, genetic clues can help doctors tailor tests and treatments so that patients have the best chance for a positive outcome.
According to a recent analysis, the genetic test market totals about 75,000 tests and is adding 10 new tests a day. The bulk of genetic test spending (40%) is for prenatal tests, followed by hereditary cancer tests (30%). Just over 10% of spending is for tests related to cancer diagnostics and treatment.
During HLTH 2018 in Las Vegas, Geisinger CEO David Feinberg announced the health system will begin offering patients whole exome sequencing, or genomic sequencing, free of charge. The nonprofit system plans to sign up 1,000 patients in the new program this year to roll out DNA sequencing as routine care.
As systems like Geisinger incorporate DNA sequencing into primary care practice, private companies like 23andMe will keep taking a crack at offering more data to further personalize treatments. Currently, 23andMe users can see which genetic variants they have through a process called genotyping, which looks at specific spots in the DNA. Sequencing is much more complete, covering all of a person's DNA, which amounts to about 3 billion base pairs.
Danvers, Massachusetts-based Veritas Genetics already offers a whole genome sequencing product for a base price of $1,000. The company teamed up with Mayo Clinic and The Genome Company earlier this year to integrate whole genome sequencing into clinical care.
The genetic test market is still relatively new, however, and missteps have occurred. 23andMe is among the companies that recently signed on to a set of voluntary guidelines meant to protect data privacy as more and more customers questioned who had access to their information and how it was being used.
The most infamous misstep is likely Theranos, a much-hyped startup that promised to revolutionize diagnostics with low-cost finger prick tests, but then imploded when massive fraud was uncovered.