How The Grinch Stole My Understanding Of Marketing
Across non-healthcare industries, genomics has basically been used as a more science-y sounding way of saying personalized. The industry sees some of the more…interesting partnerships to become mainstream and acquire customers.
For example, name a more iconic duo than the Grinch and 23andMe. I’ll wait.
You know what would make a cruise less boring? If you knew you were on it because you spit in a tube.
Billions of years of evolution, tumultuous waves of natural selection, and survival traits being passed down through biologic encoding have all built up to this.
Me, an idiot: “Wow these socks are $10 each? Too expensive and has literally nothing to do with my genetics”
You, a genius:
The next logical step: Life insurance companies that use machine vision to analyze socks to figure out your disease risk and underwrite you differently.
Back to the lab again
I jest, but genomics has actually made serious strides in the last few years, especially in clinical applications. Most recently, the FDA cleared the first direct-to-consumer pharmacogenetic test from 23andMe. The test looked at the variants of 33 genes that can help consumers understand how they’ll metabolize certain medications.
However the number of disclaimers attached makes it seem like you really shouldn’t use this test for much…
“The 23andMe Personal Genome Service Pharmacogenetic Reports test is not intended to provide information on a patient’s ability to respond to any specific medication. The test does not describe an association between the detected variants and any specific drug nor whether a person will or will not respond to a particular drug. Furthermore, health care providers should not use the test to make any treatment decisions. Results from this test should be confirmed with independent pharmacogenetic testing before making any medical decisions.”
The real goal here (and the FDA’s seemingly overarching strategy) is to be able to arm consumers with enough knowledge to reduce the information asymmetry with their provider as much as possible. Phase 1 was basic health information (WebMD), phase 2 is data from screening and diagnostic tests.
The companies that should pay most attention to this are lab testing companies. We talked in our 2018 healthcare trends report about how a combination of lower Medicare reimbursement and direct-to-consumer tests would pressure these lab testing companies to find new business lines.
Even with caveats from the FDA, if diagnostic and screening companies can go directly to consumers then lab testing companies begin losing leverage. We’ve seen this happen countless times throughout tech (Amazon, Netflix, etc. owning the consumer relationship ends up reducing the leverage their suppliers have).
LabCorp has seen this playbook happen and is trying to avoid that fate with its new D2C offering, Pixel. Question is whether the company can easily figure out this entirely new distribution avenue before existing startups develop those consumer relationships. The fact that LabCorp also announced an integration with Apple’s health app simultaneously is probably not a coincidence though.
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