Despite sketchy science, biotech companies are lining up to get into your genes

After the price of gene testing dropped, new companies cropped up to offer more than 75,000 different genetic tests -- and the medical community is struggling to keep up.

May 9, 2018

According to a study in the journal Health Affairs, 10 new genetic testing kits arrive every day, flooding the market with 75k different testing options.

Genetic testing has been around for decades, but financially accessible tests became available only recently — and doctors who don’t have the tools to evaluate their success aren’t sure how to keep up with them.

Thank the Supreme Court and Angelina Jolie for the hype

In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that Utah biotech company Myriad Genetics couldn’t patent human DNA that predicted breast and ovarian cancer — saying that it would prevent academic researchers from developing new treatments.

That same year, Angelina Jolie published an op-ed describing her use of (newly deregulated) gene testing to prevent hereditary breast cancer — and popular interest in gene testing soared.

This interest drove the price of gene sequencing down from about $3k in 2013 to less than $100 today — spurring massive investment in the gene business and increasing the small handful of people opting for tests to 12m people.

Too many tests, too few answers

As businesses compete to carve out a niche in the business of clinical genomics (expected to hit $7.7B by 2020) only 14% of doctors are confident in interpreting the results of these tests.

But nevertheless, many of these new gene-testing kit startups have started selling their products to big companies — and businesses like Salesforce, Instacart, Snap, Levi’s, and GE are all willing to take the test without studying.

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