This David Ewing Duncan piece sheds a bit of light on various issues du jour in commercial personal genomics, including:
- The mysterious 23andMe business model
The company is considering a feature that would allow people to…link their personalized pages to those of others who share their DNA—fellow sprinters, say, or people at risk for Alzheimer’s—just as you can now link to college chums on Facebook. 23andMe has not discussed pricing, but competitors are talking about charging upwards of $2,000 a person.
- Potential market size: $12.5 billion
“I’m convinced there is an early-adopter market here,” says Sue Siegel, former president of Affymetrix and now a venture capitalist at Mohr Davidow. “Millions of people are used to getting health-care information online.”
- Navigenics‘ “know as you go” strategy
…But Navigenics’ site won’t release all of the data collected by the chip, only the designated panel of gene tests. The company plans to offer information and telephone support from genetic counselors, and a subscription to its service will last a year. “Your DNA will be on file, and we’ll test it against new findings,” says Amy DuRoss, Navigenics’ head of policy and business affairs.
- The imminent entry into the market of yet another 800-lb transgenic gorilla
DeCODE C.E.O. Kári Stefánsson says that the company plans to launch a direct-to-consumer site next spring. “We have the original data and they don’t,” says Stefánsson about his I.T. competitors.
- A welcome note of skepticism
“…by and large, the information is not useful to the individual,” says Doug Fambrough of Oxford Bioscience Partners, a biotech venture capital firm headquartered in Boston. “First of all, the information is hard to understand for anyone who is not a trained molecular biologist. It has to be boiled down. Also, the science has not yet arrived. We can tell a single trait here and there, but what people really want to know is how this affects their life. We can’t yet make accurate predictions about this.”