There are already terrabytes of data online and sometimes it is difficult to differentiate among true/false and relevant/irrelevant data. Although doing so is especially important in the case of medicine and healthcare since the well-being of people is at stake. So it is high time to show my top 10 choices when it comes to online […]

The rapid development of medical technology affects every aspect of medicine and healthcare – and even the seemingly most remote and ivory-tower-like institution, pharmacy, cannot escape its transformative power. Let me show you the bright future of pharmacies.

Diabetes is a lifelong condition with no cure. It requires constant attention from the patient and his or her environment. Now, artificial pancreas is coming into the everyday-life of diabetes patients to unburden them and enable them to live a normal life. I had a great conversation with the inventor of the DIY pancreas, Dana Lewis to […]



Identifying Genetic Disorders From Family Photos

Although the area of genomics has not been developing at an exponential rate that experts expected when the Human Genome Project was announced to be completed, more and more ways of potential use of genomic data in medicine have showed how it might transform our lives. A few months ago, it was published that so-called “genetic mugshots” can  be recreated from DNA. By only using a person’s DNA, a face can be generated which sounds like pure science fiction.

Now researchers at Oxford University have developed a computer program that can diagnose rare genetic disorders in children simply by analyzing family photos.

One day we might be able to sequence the genomes of newborns immediately after birth (or even before) to tell parents what major conditions the child might have to deal with in the future. As an additional feature, children without genomic sequences made available could get an instant diagnosis only by looking into the camera of a computer using this algorithm.

An excerpt about how it works:

The program works by recognising certain characteristic facial structures that can be present with certain conditions, including Down’s syndrome, Teacher Collins, Progeria, Fragile X and Angelman syndrome. It combines computer vision and machine learning to scan pictures for similarities to a database of pictures of people with known conditions, and then returns matches ranked by likelihood.

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My CNN Article: 10 ways technology will save your life in the future

I was invited to write an article about 10 ways technology will save our lives in the future for CNN.com and I was happy to do so. It was featured today on the main page of CNN. I hope you will find it useful. Here is the introduction:

The medical and healthcare sectors are in the midst of rapid change, and it can be difficult to see which new technologies will have a long-lasting impact.

Ideally, the future of healthcare will balance innovative medical technologies with the human touch. Here, I’ve outlined the trends most likely to change our lives, now or in the near future.

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The Era of the $1000 USD Genome? Not Yet!

When I started my PhD in 2009, the industry of genomics was really loud about the upcoming era of the 1000 USD genome. Then I met George Church at Scifoo organized in Googleplex and he told me the same, it was coming. Meanwhile, I finished my PhD in 2012, then one more year passed and now Illumina announced they have a machine that can sequence an entire human genome for about 1000 USD.

In the past few days, the press has been loud about the era of the 1000 USD genome. Well, did we call it the smartphone era when the first developments related to future smartphones became public? No! We started calling our time the smartphone era when I could walk into a store and buy an iPhone or an Android.

The same goes for the industry of genomics. We will live in the 1000 USD era when I can walk into a lab and have my genome sequenced for less than 1000 USD in days. It’s not here yet, although it’s coming.

Moreover, I don’t think the cost of sequencing your genome will be less than 1000 USD, but totally free!

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Navigenics Interview: Annual Insight

In my post about the predictions for 2009 in genomics, I said Navigenics would rule the market even if its service was more expensive than the kit of 23andMe. Now I had a chance to do an interview about the scientific background of the service and I have already sent my saliva sample back to their lab so the results should arrive soon.

Now, they came up with a totally new website, a new product and a lower price (read the press release). I’m always saying such genetic tests should be ordered by physicians. Well, here is an excerpt from the press release:

Accessible through Navigenics’ website, the secure portal empowers physicians with a suite of tools including a single access point to all of their participating patients’ genomic information, along with learning tools and case studies for integrating genomic information into their clinical practice.

I believe that was a crucial step to make.

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1. There are more and more companies offering direct-to-consumer DNA testing. How does Navigenics try to make a difference?

  • Navigenics focuses exclusively on providing genetic information for health conditions – all of which can be delayed, prevented or diagnosed early.
  • We offer two DNA testing experiences that provide different levels of premium analysis and service to best meet your needs. With both, you’ll get relevant health information and the support to help you share your results with your doctor effectively.
  • We are the only personalized genetic testing company that provides the support of board-certified genetic
  • ounselors, to help you understand your results and take action.
  • We use only government-certified laboratories.
  • Our results are based on science of the highest possible caliber. We only report on genetic markers that have met stringent criteria developed by our team of Ph.D. geneticists.
  • Privacy is our priority. Your results are kept private and secure, so the only person who has access to your results is you.
  • Navigenics is committed to research and we serve as a leader and collaborator to advance the science of genetics. We collaborate with some of the best medical institutions in the world.

2. So far, the terms of service of Navigenics have stated the results shouldn’t be used for healthcare decisions. Will it change in the near future?

Our Terms and Conditions indicate that our services are not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, and we have always encouraged customers to work with their physician before taking any steps after receiving their Navigenics results. As our service offerings evolve and more physicians incorporate our services into their practice, we will consider whether that necessitates any changes or clarifications to our Terms and Conditions of service .

3. The new Annual Insight provides a genetic check up for 9 common medical conditions. Personalized genetic services usually analyze more than 20 conditions. What is the reason behind the decision to analyze only 9?

The Navigenics Annual Insight service offers a highly focused snapshot of your genetic predisposition to nine select health conditions. We use a customized test for each marker in order to gather 100% of the genetic information needed to give you a highly targeted analysis of your risk information for those health conditions . By focusing on 10 common conditions, you get a targeted look at some of the most common causes of disease and disability in the U.S. today.

4. What is the genetic background of the analysis? Do you use SNP chips to determine personal risks?

I have attached a detailed white paper that addresses this – please review and let me know if you have further questions. (Access to the pdf file: Applying Preventive Genomic Medicine in Clinical Practice)

5. How accurate do you think SNP analysis is nowadays? Of course, as science is moving forward, it can change, but do you think patients understand the scientific background? Can they make health decisions based on SNP studies?

Again, we encourage our customers to work with their physician before making any changes in their healthcare strategy after they receive their Navigenics results.

6. Are you open to use the tools of telemedicine or patients will have to meet genetic counselors in person? How do you ensure security?

Currently our genetic counseling sessions are conducted by phone. We have found this to be an effective and convenient means of providing professional support to those who engage in our testing services.

Navigenics adheres to rigid security standards throughout the genetic testing process. All of our Genetic Counselors are board-certified professionals who adhere to a code of ethics that includes maintaining the highest levels of privacy and confidentiality.

Navigenics is committed to protecting your privacy. You own your genetic data, and it is our responsibility to safeguard your genetic information. Using the most advanced data protection systems available, we:

  • Anonymize all member profiles to assure data security
  • Capture the minimum account information necessary for transactions.
  • Encrypt all your personal genomic data
  • Generate your genetic risk assessment reports on demand so they exist only as you view them
  • Maintain multiple layers of physical and electronic security measures.
  • Constantly monitor all relevant processes to ensure your genetic test results are not compromised
  • Have our operational, infrastructure and applications procedures independently audited.
  • Have a sophisticated customer identification process and authenticate all transactions.

Thank you for the answers!

What I especially liked on the new portal is the Genetic testing: Myths and truths section.

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What do you think? Could Navigenics make the important steps regarding lower prices and more serious physician involvement?