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August 13, 2018

Precision Medicine - The Bespoke Healthcare Era

Commentary
Hanna Phelan
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Precision Medicine: What is it?

Precision medicine takes into account an individual's variability in environment, lifestyle, and genes in disease prevention and treatment. This will help us move from a "one fits all approach” of healthcare, to instead moving towards a more customized individual focus to improve patient outcomes. Read more here.

Why are we looking at it?

Precision Medicine has become somewhat of a welcome buzzword within Healthcare over the past year with increased attention and investment being made within the area, most notably within the United States from the recently launched Precision Medicine Initiative from President Barack Obama on January 25, 2015. (The NIH created a great infographic on the initiative here) This was further strengthened when President Obama signed the 21st Century Cures Act in December 2016 which allotted $4.8 billion to the NIH’s Precision Medicine Initiative. The US is not alone in their focus towards personalised care, China has also recently increased their investment into Precision Medicine models with an incredible investment of over $9.2 Billion into its own Precision Medicine Initiative. Whats especially exciting for us is how the focus has now shifted to explore how new innovations within digital health can help facilitate this change by providing the tools and networks to allow for a truly data driven approach to tackling this problem. This change provides countless opportunities for new and exciting companies to innovate within the space while partnering with established institutions to deliver results at scale. (This is what we love to do! Connecting the right people at the right time to develop solutions to challenges within Healthcare is what really excites us!) Oncology is the area that is perhaps most commonly associated with precision medicine but other areas such as cardiology are also making headway within the sphere. Last year, the American Heart Association announced its cloud- based data marketplace for promoting collaboration in treatment and research into Cardiovascular disease. The potential of Precision Medicine has not gone unnoticed in the private sector also with many private Venture Capital firms looking to cash in on the growth of private companies developing products and solutions in the space.

Today we're going to take a look at some of the companies in the Consumer Genomics space as it is an area that has gained specific attention and traction from consumers due to its appeal to potentially predict hereditary diseases.

Companies to watch in Consumer Genomics

Cota

Cota allows oncologists to categorise and sort molecular genetic data. Cota achieves this by enabling the delivery of precision medicine at scale by building real-world evidence that is digitally organized and classified using the patented Cota Nodal Address™ System. A powerful suite of software tools empowers actionable hypothesis testing, visualization, and decision-making.

23andMe

One of the most talked about areas within Precision Medicine is without a doubt consumer genomics. Consumer Genomics is the buzzword that has come to describe the industry and collection of companies that are striving to empower the public with the tools to understand the potential presence of disease and hereditary conditions by simple home tests. When it comes to Consumer Genomics, the company that comes to mind is without a doubt 23andMe.  23andMe shot to fame due to a combination of their revolutionary technology, and the fame of their founder Anne Wojicki. Their technology allows users to discover information about out how their genetics relate to things like abnormal blood clotting, cystic fibrosis or response to certain medications. You can also see if your body metabolises caffeine quickly or if you’re likely lactose intolerant. Would you want to know what diseases you could develop or pass on?

Helix

Helix also provide a genome sequencing service to the consumer from a simple saliva swab. Helix provides consumers with the option to purchase a home kit which consists of a simple vial for which they provide a DNA sample (in the form of saliva), and then post it back to Helix to analyse. That simple! This model is quite standard now in the industry and Helix seem to be pushing forward with multiple partnerships and deals which are helping them to get their genomics testing kits into the hands of more consumers. One particularly exciting partnership is one in which they have joined forces with National Geographic to help people track their ancestry! Check it out here.

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