Getting Personal with Medicine

As direct to consumer genetic testing dips below the thousand-dollar mark—and in some cases, way below—a lot of people have mixed reactions to the notion of using this technology to create designer babies.  (Or, they can’t wait to seek guidance on how to give birth to one that looks like the guy in People magazine on page 26.)

And will people that are prone to anxiety flock to genetic counselors to find out whether or not they are candidates for developing a disease for which there is no cure, and no way to know whether or not it will even develop?

One of the most highly anticipated applications of putting DNA testing within reach of the average consumer’s wallet is that of customizing medical treatment. In a world where personalized medicine is the norm, doctors could target a patient’s individual makeup when prescribing therapies, so that people can expect better outcomes and fewer detours to improved health.

While much is being speculated as to how major suppliers of gene sequencing tools will fare in the short-term in the area of personalized medicine, it is the Small to Medium Enterprise that seeks the blockbuster innovation that will make them a target for acquisition and/or funding.

In a recent study we did for Tekes, the funding organization for R&D in Finland, we found that funding for SMEs in personalized medicine remains sporadic, but that these companies are becoming increasingly more attractive to venture capital firms partly due to the emerging concept of “pay for performance.”

This merit-based reimbursement model looks something like this:

  1. The insurance company pays if the drug works
  2. The drug company pays if the drug doesn’t work

Of course, it’s a lot more complex than that, but you get the idea.