DNA smartphones

Medicine for the Rich Is About to Get Cheap Enough for Regular People

by DANIELA HERNANDEZ, Wired.com  |  published on February 15, 2013

After years of exotic and very expensive machines sequencing DNA, the genomics industry finally looks poised for its cell phone moment.

Soon, the business of genetics could look a lot like the commodity-driven mobile industry, with providers selling hardware on the cheap and relying on software, apps and diagnostics to drive revenue. And, as with the app-filled smartphones we keep close to us 24/7, genomics could finally become a much more intimate part of our lives.

“With smartphones it’s the data and apps where the high value has accrued over time. In the case of sequencing, it’s going to be something similar,” said Jorge Conde, CFO and co-founder of Knome, a genomic diagnostics company. The question, he says, then becomes whether the market looks like Apple’s walled garden, Microsoft’s more democratic model, or Google, where everything happens in the cloud.

In recent years, the industry has been working to solve the data storage and analysis bottlenecks resulting from an explosion of genetic data as sequencing costs have continued to drop. And they have succeeded. That means companies and institutions can finally focus on deciphering what all our genetic data actually means and how it might influence our risk for certain diseases. In other words, diagnostics is where the money is moving.

This shift is being catalyzed by a push by genomics, diagnostics and pharmaceutical giants to provide seamless services that include everything from genetic sequencing, to data analysis and interpretation, to reports medical providers can use in the clinic to make treatment decisions. The result might ultimately be the emergence of personalized medicine as the new standard of care.

“Today, most companies have a specific niche. The full integrated package is being promised but is not really being offered,” says Dr. Gianrico Farrugia, the director of the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine. With the help of medical institutions and a growing number of companies setting out to provide these services, he says, we’re getting closer to that promise actually being realized.

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