The number of companies focusing on personalized genetics is growing. But currently, there are only 3 projects (Navigenics, 23andMe and Helix Health) that seem to have the potential to reach enough people. I’d like to share some thoughts with you about how informative their websites are and what kind of services they plan to provide in the future.
- Design: Simple (it’s positive). Their introduction video is in the focus which is a very good point. Furthermore, the structure of the subpages is clear, and there are links everywhere to make it easier to follow the content.
- Informativeness: One of the best introductions and explanations of personalized genetics. They feature all the 3 essential issues:
- We are advised by leading genetic scientists, physicians, genetic counselors, bioethicists, patient advocates, and policy experts to ensure we make the best decisions about our services.
- We are committed to grounding our service in the latest scientific knowledge about genetics, health and disease prevention while presenting information in a highly transparent, personalized and actionable way.
- We protect your personal genetic information, recognizing that it belongs to you and you alone. Should you decide you want to share your information with a health-care professional, we make it easy to do so.
- Team: The whole team is introduced in details. The advisors, the directors and the investors all have a short description of themselves. That’s how it should work on all of the medical websites.
- Method: The sample of the patient (through a “saliva kit”) will be tested for nearly a million genetic markers on a gene chip manufactured by Affymetrix. No information regarding the details (for example, even if it’s not public due to business reasons, I’d like to know what kind of single nucleotide polymorphisms they analyze, etc.). According to the science writer, David Ewing Duncan: 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.
- Cost: Patients will be charged between $2,000 and $3,000. As the WSJ Blog described, this fee will also cover consultations with a genetic counselor and a year of updates as more SNPs and diseases are validated and added to the test. Annual subscriptions for additional updates will be available for about $250.
- Target: They will tell consumers their risk for about 20 medical conditions, including diabetes, obesity, prostate cancer and glaucoma
- Media Coverage: VentureBeat; Eye on DNA; WSJ Blog; Genetic Genealogist; Gene Sherpa and Wired.
- Design: Very simplistic.
- Informativeness: As the company doesn’t plan to provide details until it is ready to launch the product, there are only some subpages about contact information and job opportunities.
Our goal is to connect you to the 23 paired volumes of your own genetic blueprint (plus your mitochondrial DNA), bringing you personal insight into ancestry, genealogy, and inherited traits. By connecting you to others, we can also help put your genome into the larger context of human commonality and diversity.
- Team: A short description of the founders. Anyway, the company has backing from Google (Anna Wojcicki is the wife of Google’s Sergey Brin) and Esther Dyson is one of the ten volunteers for the Personal Genome Project.
- Method: The patient will send a DNA sample to Illumina for genotyping. According to VentureBeat, instead of scanning the whole genome letter-by-letter, Illumina’s microbead-based scanners detect hundreds of single-letter DNA variations that give a useful but rough approximation of what the full genome would look like. The company will then put that information up on a secure Web page, where users could analyze it; trace their genealogy and create social networks where they can compare and contrast their genetics.
- Cost: No information.
- Target: Genealogy and social networking based on genetic differences or similarities among users.
- Media Coverage: VentureBeat; Question Tehnology; business|bytes|genes|molecules.
- Design: Colourful, nice design with clear stucture. Plenty of subpages that provide a huge amount of information.
- Informativeness: Really informative. The site describes what personalized medicine is about; how it can help patients to live a healthier life and it also helps physicians with the indications for referral to Helix Health. The site makes it easier for laypeople to know more about these diseases and predispositions by featuring patient stories.
The Helix Health team is comprised of physicians and genetic counselors with the experience, medical expertise and specialized genetics training to ensure that our patients are doing the most to optimize their health and wellness and that of their family. We work in concert with traditional medical providers in ongoing consultation to best advise patients on genetic testing and the complex interpretation of test results.
- Team: Clinicians, genetic counselors and the scientific advisors are all introduced with short CVs.
- Method: A consultation with genetic counselors, coordination of genetic testing and a detailed health management plan based on the patient’s risk evaluation and genetic test results. But no information about the type of testing (SNPs, gene expression profiles, etc.). Details of the literature review are available upon request.
- Cost: No information.
- Target:It provides genetic testing for:
- Media Coverage: Steve Murphy, the founder of Helix Health is the author of The Gene Sherpa blog which focuses on personalized genetics.
Discussion: Hard to say anything clever at this point. I’d say, for me, Navigenics‘ service isn’t worth 2500 $ as they don’t really tell me what kind of SNPs they analyze. So I don’t know what exactly I get for my money. 23andMe seems to be focused mainly on genealogy information and genetic social networking while Helix Health seems to provide the “most personal” service but probably they have the weakest financial background among these companies. What you can take for granted is that there’ll be an even bigger media coverage about these projects as they will rule the next years in personalized medicine.
If we could merge the real advantages of these companies:
- the fantastic team of Navigenics and their unique business model;
- the financial background of 23andMe; the focus on genealogy information and social networking;
- the personal aspect of Helix Health and their potential to serve and help physicians as well,
…then it would be the perfect service. But it’s impossible to compare them properly as they are all unique in their own way and will probably find their base of customers.