Pathway Genomics: Interview

Some months ago, I wrote about the importance of customer service in the life of direct-to-consumer genomic companies. After the post, Pathway Genomics contacted me and said they were excited to speak more openly about their service. They also want to educate the community on genetic testing services and what these test results will and will not tell you. Here is the interview they have recently given to me.

  • Pathway Genomics is one of the newest competitors in the DTC genomics market. How do you aim to make a difference?

Quality. Pathway has a wholly owned federal CLIA and California State licensed laboratory. This onsite lab removes any “middle-man” issues. DNA samples are collected in Pathway’s custom-designed DNA collection kits and shipped directly to Pathway’s laboratory in San Diego, California. Genetic testing services, across five different technology platforms (including gene sequencing) are carried out by staff geneticists. Genetic health, lifestyle, and family history data and ancestry data are interpreted using unique algorithms developed by Pathway. Genetic test results are reviewed by medical staff and genetic counselors for accuracy and then reported via our online secure web site. When appropriate, our genetic counselors will contact customers to present and review their data. At any time, customers can contact Pathway’s Genetic Counselors for help understanding their genetic information.

Content. Pathway offers genetic testing services for both health and ancestry. As part of Pathway’s genetic health testing service, customers can learn about their propensity to develop disease, sensitivities to prescription drugs, or carrier status for mutations causing monogenic disorders. In the case of drug responses, Pathway is the market leader and reports on nearly a dozen different drug responses and adverse reactions. This includes clopidogrel (Plavix), statins, oral contraceptives, and certain cancer fighting treatments. This is important information because not all drugs are effective for all people and in some cases can cause adverse reactions.

Price. Genetic tests ordered through traditional medical outlets may be cost prohibitive for consumers. Pathway offers genetic health and ancestry testing services that are easy and affordable, with tests starting at $99. And for less than $350, consumers can access both health (drug response, carrier status, health conditions) and genetic ancestry tests.

  • How many Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms do you test and how many of them do you really use for the analysis?

As of today, Pathway reports on 71 health conditions, including tests for health diseases (24), drug responses and adverse reactions (10), and carrier status (37). Pathway shares this number because this is the information we believe helps consumers choose a genetic testing service right for them. Concerning the number of SNPs tested, we do not disclose this information, as we believe this to be competitive in nature and not informative to the consumer until otherwise validated by research.

  • You analyze drug responses, among other features. How accurate are these tests? I mean if you tell me I have a variance in my CYP2C9 gene, should I ask my GP to change the level of Coumadin I’ve been prescribed to?

Pathway has taken great effort to validate the accuracy and specificity of all the markers we report. Our standards exceed those required for federal CLIA certification. Therefore, you can be assured that the genotypes you receive from Pathway are highly accurate. That said, if Pathway told you that you had a genetic variation in your CYP2C9 gene that increased your sensitivity to Coumadin (Warfarin), we believe it’s important to share this information with your physician and discuss a personalized treatment plan based on this genetic data.

  • I don’t totally understand the concept behind the 100% money back guarantee. If I think my results don’t represent my real genetic background properly (e.g. because my family history predicts something different), I can get my money back?

Ultimately, we want each of our customers to feel confident about the information they receive about their genetic health or ancestry tests. While some people may not “like” what they learn about their genetic information, we want to do our best in serving our customers. Therefore, if for any reason a customer is not happy with their genetic testing service we will offer them 100% money back.

  • Please tell us about your plans for the near future? How do you plan to improve the service?

It’s important to continue to educate consumers, physicians, and the genetics community at large about the benefits associated with genetic testing services-specifically, what genetic testing can and can’t tell you. As the research community continues to make discoveries linking genetic variations to complex diseases, drug responses, etc., we will translate this information into an easy to understand format for our customers, thus helping to make personalized medicine a reality.