Sean George, CEO of Invitae
0:00 Getting genetic information into mainstream medical care
3:50 Is cost really the biggest barrier?
9:25 How do you decide when to add a test?
13:50 What do your investors want to see?
18:03 Would you ever go direct to consumers?
20:42 Is there a genetic counseling crisis? If so, what are you doing to help?
23:32 Future trends
Invitae appointed their co-founder Sean George as CEO earlier this year. He joins us to share his bold vision for the field of genetic testing.
Sean mentions the word “scale” several times in today’s interview. Invitae was by no means the first on the scene, beginning in late 2013 (just after the Myriad Supreme Court decision), but with plenty of funding and talent they have sought to push the needle forward in a big way when it comes to genetic tests. The company has always exuded the message that there is all this valuable genetic information available now, and it’s just not getting to people who could benefit.
Sean says that this urgency is what drives him in a quest to “prevent unnecessary suffering that exists today by tearing down the barriers that are keeping this powerful and fundamental information from benefiting people’s lives.”
What are the barriers? Sean says cost is number one. That there are many out there who would buy genetic tests but can’t because of the price. In an age of astronomical drug prices, is it really that crucial to squeeze off a few dollars from a genetic test? And how does Sean and Invitae make the decision when to offer a test?
While Invitae has not gone the direct-to-consumer (DTC) route, Sean says they have a bit of a hybrid model where they market directly to consumers, but sell only into the clinic.
Sean agrees that the industry has had some “whiplash”, moving forward with excitement only to have big set backs. He says that in his company presentations, he likes to show two New York Times headlines:
The first goes, “10 Years after the Human Genome Project, What Does It Matter?” And the second headline taken from 1991: “Personal Computers: So Who Needs Them Anyway?”