Genomics is driving change in health care – what patients, providers, and industry need to know

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Experts address of privacy, data, future of personalized treatments, and more in webinar

Genomics is generating attention in the health care industry. A wide range of health care stakeholders – including consumers, researchers, health system leaders, industry partners, and the government – are looking to harness the human genome, as it has the potential to bring major changes to the practice of medicine.

Despite this excitement there remain many unanswered questions.

  • Some consumers are concerned about their privacy and how genetic information might be used by employers and health plans.
  • Genomic sequencing generates huge amounts of data – sequencing one tumor can create 2 TB of data – leading some health systems to question how they will store, manage, secure and analyze the information.
  • Patients and providers are wondering how best to interpret and act upon the knowledge of a genomic abnormality.
  • As researchers collect and analyze greater amounts of genomic and other health data, what future treatments will be possible?

CCM webinar on genomics

To answer questions, address concerns, and discuss the potential for health care, the Center for Connected Medicine (CCM) hosted a webinar with leading experts who will unpack the opportunities, challenges, excitement, and concern surrounding genomics.

The webinar, “The Rise of Genomics: Consumerism, Commercialization and Health Care,” was moderated by Rasu Shrestha, MD, MBA, Chief Innovation Officer of UPMC and Executive Vice President of UPMC Enterprises, and featured the following panelists:

  • Jill Hagenkord, MD, Chief Medical Officer, Color
  • Mylynda B. Massart, MD, PhD, Co-Investigator, All of Us Pennsylvania
  • Houman Modarres, Senior Director of IP Networks, Nokia
  • Martin Reese, PhD, Founder and CEO, Fabric Genomics

Investment in genomics startups is growing

The CCM, which convenes thought leaders to discuss the top issues in health care, recognizes that interest in genomics is high. Investment in genomic startups is growing, driven by consumer demand for genetic tests; health systems want to personalize treatments to create value for their patients; and pharmaceutical companies are trying to develop more effective medications.

Genetics companies raised a record $1.5 billion in financing in the first 10 months of last year, according to Pitchbook, led by $250 million for 23andMe – the largest-ever investment round for a VC-genetics company. The value of the genomics market is predicted to expand to nearly $12 billion by 2026, more than double the value of $5.1 billion in 2017, according to Inkwood Research.

Medical center researchers hoping to unlock more effective care for populations are collecting large sets of genomic and other health data. The National Institutes of Health-backed All of Us project is attempting to sequence the genomes of 1 million Americans. Similar efforts are underway in other countries.

Health systems are investing in genomics as they seek to better understand and engage with their patients, many of whom are seeking their own genetic information. With the price of testing falling dramatically in recent years and more options for consumers to choose from, the direct-to-consumer genetic testing market is predicted to more than triple in value. Market research firm Kalorama Information estimates the market will be worth $310 million by 2022, up from $99 million in 2018.

Medical reasons for genetic testing

Beyond the opportunity to create stronger patient engagement, health systems also see strong medical reasons for genetic testing. Genomic screening can pick up the BRCA 1 and 2 anomalies, which indicate a stronger risk for developing breast and ovarian cancer; testing can also be used in advanced oncology patients to better understand the most-effective paths for treatment; and NICUs can look for genetic explanations for disorders in newborns.

Finally, health systems also are aware of the consumer interest. The CCM has found that many of the largest health systems in the United States are moving into personalized medicine by employing genomics. In the CCM’s Top of Mind 2018 digital health trends survey, 57 percent of responding health systems said they were using or planned to begin using genomic testing to provide personalized care to patients in 2018.

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