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?