The field of personal genomics is just beginning. With recent advances in sequencing, whole genome sequencing (or whole genome SNP analysis) has become increasingly affordable. While the Human Genome Project cost $3 billion for one genome, Watsonâ€™s genome was sequenced for $1 to 2 million just a few years later.
In addition to the oft-discussed start-up company 23andMe, a least one other personal genomics company has announced its intention to offer sequencing and analysis to consumers. Navigenetics, based in
â€œ[A] privately held company offering personalized, genetics-based consumer health and wellness services to our members. Our founders and advisors include leading genetic scientists, physicians, genetic counselors, bioethicists, patient advocates, health policy and technology experts and a management team that has launched some of the most successful online health and information resources of our time.â€
Navigeneticsâ€™ website makes it clear that the company is strongly focused on the medical application of genetic information:
â€œ[The company will] screen your whole genome and compare it to the most up-to-date research on the genetic foundation of conditions such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease. We then provide you with clinically based knowledge to help you take positive steps to live as long and healthy a life as possible.â€
â€œ[C]onsumers will be able to go to the Navigenics website and order a saliva collection kit. The customer will then send the kit to Affymetrixâ€™s CLIA lab, which will run a whole-genome screen and send the analysis to Navigenics. Then, Navigenics will provide the genetic-predisposition analysis to the customer via a secure, private web portal and offer genetic counseling.â€
Navigeneticsâ€™ arrival on the scene has led many to wonder how the companyâ€™s offerings compete with those of 23andMe. David Hamilton of VentureBeat:lifesciences had the following to say in August:
â€œNavigenics so far seems focused on the question of what your genes might say about disease, whereas 23andMe is apparently also interested in helping people trace their genealogy and creating social networks where they can compare and contrast their genetics.â€
â€œMeanwhile, Navigenics board member Dana Mead, a partner at KP, tells us by email that Navigenics is doing something â€œdifferentâ€ from 23andMe and that he sees the company as â€œmore complimentary than competitiveâ€ to 23andMe.â€
The problem with the above statement is that the two markets, genetic genealogy and personalized medicine, are likely to be worth vastly different amounts in the near future. Genetic genealogy is a hobby that is financed out-of-pocket, while personalized medicine does/will involve health concerns and might be paid for by insurance companies. Based on an analysis of the market, it seems more likely that 23andMe and Navigenetics will ultimately be competitors. Luckily, the personal genetics market could potentially be enormous, and the competition will ultimately revolve around the traditional issues of quality of service, depth of analysis, and protection of privacy.
See more discussion at Genomics Revolution and at VentureBeat:lifesciences. I should also note that David recently mentioned the possibility of a third personal genomics start-up (here, the last sentence):
“Rumors of yet a third, still stealthy, personal-genomics startup are also swirling around the Valley.”