The Era of the Social Genome with Rodrigo Martinez, Veritas Genetics

Two years ago Veritas Genetics began offering whole genome sequencing for a thousand dollars. It was a significant milestone—and still is!—not only for what it means about the company providing the genomes but also what it means about the demand for such a product.

Today we talk to Rodrigo Martinez, the Chief Marketing and Design Officer at Veritas and co-author of a recent blog, Next in The Genomics Revolution: The Era of the Social Genome. The blog puts the current offer of whole genome sequencing into the larger context of the history of genomics, compares the availability of the whole genome to that of the personal computer, and anticipates how interacting with our genomic data may begin to shape our lives.

We have two core questions for Rodrigo: What does a whole genome mean to Veritas? And why should one order a whole genome test?

Rodrigo argues that the time of having single one-off genetic tests or even panels of tests has been superseded. Why not get a whole genome test at the same low price, open an online account with all of our genomic information, and have it all there ready for any future interaction?

Veritas offers their product to physicians and to consumers, giving us another perfect chance to continue our ongoing discussion here on the program about the blurring of DTC borders.

It’s our first interview with someone from Veritas. And it’s a lively and long one.  Rodrigo is a deep diver and never short of breath or ideas.  Enjoy.

The Sports Genes with Jeremy Koenig, Athletigen

Jeremy Koenig is a molecular biologist and an athlete. His interest in both led him to found a new direct-to-consumer genetic testing company called Athletigen.

Still it its early days, the company has curated several genetic markers which tell about a person’s athleticism. With their first report now available, the company makes it super easy to get started if you have already used 23andMe’s service. The athletigen.com portal will link in to 23andMe and retrieve your raw data. Within minutes you can be looking into whether you’re more of a power or endurance athlete, or whether your body will respond well to the paleo diet, among other predispositions. The report is free.

So how will the company make money, we ask Jeremy, who is also CEO. And, being a Canadian company, what regulatory hurdles does the company face? The DTC genetic testing space has been a treacherous one. The winners have been those companies which offer non health related products, such as genetic ancestry or paternity, or those which have sold large data sets to big pharma.

In today's show, Jeremy points out that the human body is the ultimate technology, and that athletes push this technology to its limits. Athletes can learn from their genes. And the rest of us can learn from studies of athletes and their genes. Will the field of sports genetics take off and open up new possibilities for research and precision medicine?

“One of the things my coach said to me as an athlete in college - I was a hundred meter sprinter - he’d say, 'Jeremy, we are all wearing different bodies, and you need to embrace yours. Don’t think that you need to do what the best sprinters in the world are doing right now. You need to do what’s good for Jeremy.' I think everyone needs to take stock of their own DNA,” says Jeremy.


In Partnership with IBM’s Watson, Pathway Genomics Reinvents Itself

Direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic testing has had a bumpy ride.

Back in 2010, Pathway Genomics and Walgreens made a deal to sell DTC genetic tests in thousands of Walgreens drugstores. Within 48 hours of the deal being announced, it collapsed. The FDA sent a letter to Pathway basically asking them what the hell they were doing. Walgreens quickly elected to put the kibosh on the partnership.

Since then, Pathway has reinvented itself as an “information technology company with a genetic testing lab on the side,” according to today's guest, Ardy Arianpour, Pathway’s Chief Commercial Officer.

Late last year Pathway announced a partnership to use IBM’s supercomputer, Watson, to power a new “killer app” called Panorama. This will be a “smart" app available later this year, Ardy says, that will incorporate data from wearables and biomedical literature (through Watson), and be able to recommend certain genetic tests that the company will offer.

However, this time Pathway is being more careful about selling the genetic tests. While the app will be available to every consumer, all genetic tests provided by Pathway must be ordered by a physician. The app becomes then really an educational tool for consumers which might lead them into discussions with their doctors. Ardy says Pathway is developing a separate app for physicians as well.

It's a new day for DTC genetic testing. The FDA just approved for the first time a DTC test offered by 23andMe. Might Pathway's Panorama app with accompanying tests find the right balance between protection of the consumer and the freedom to access our own genetic data?

Cutting through the Hype in Healthcare Innovation with David Shaywitz and Lisa Suennen

In today’s special studio interview, the health tech duo, David Shaywitz and Lisa Suennen, walk us through the changing paradigms around healthcare. They offer their thoughts on some of the new digital health and peer-to-peer social platforms which are becoming integrated in daily clinical care.

Lisa grew up in Silicon Valley and is an investor in the health tech space. David is a newcomer to the Valley and is currently the Chief Medical Officer at DNAnexus, a company that provides cloud based genomics data storage and analytics. They are both avid bloggers and recently compiled much of their written work together into a book, "TechTonics: Can Passionate Entrepreneurs Heal Healthcare with Technology?" They also co-host a new podcast by the same name.

DTC Genomics: Opportunity Lost?

Once I warmed up to the idea of startup companies offering to sequence the DNA of anyone capable of ordering from Amazon.com, I began to look forward to what might come of this nascent industry. Enabling individuals to have their DNA sequenced certainly seemed like an out-of-the-box idea at the time and I wondered if a so-called paradigm shift might arise from placing genetic information, unfiltered and unadvised, in the hands of its owner.

I had(and still have) two chief hopes for "paradigm shifts" that might come from throwing the genetics box wide open:

Anne Wojcicki, CEO, 23andMe

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Anne Wojcicki, CEO, 23andMe Bio and Contact Info

Listen (8:18) Influencers

Listen (1:14) What were you doing when the human genome was first sequenced?

Listen (2:16) 23andMe, an engine for transforming healthcare

Listen (4:21) Questions from the mendelspod audience

Listen (4:26) Favorite example of a customer

Listen (0:56) Important to win over scientific community

Listen (3:41) Personal questions are a distraction

Anne Wojcicki is the co-founder and CEO of the consumer genomics company, 23andMe. Prior to founding the company in 2006, Anne worked in healthcare investing ,focused primarily on biotech companies. Anne graduated from Yale with a Bachelor of Science in Biology. Under Anne's leadership 23andMe has made significant advances in bringing personalized medicine directly to the public. Presently, 23andMe has built one of the world's largest databases of individual genetic information. Its novel, web-based research approach allows for the rapid recruitment of participants to many genome-wide association studies at once. Getting access to and understanding her own genetic information had always been one of Anne’s ambitions.