Online DNA Tests Are Changing Healthcare Industry
For those of you who take interest in the exploits of the fictional titans and gods of classical Greece, perhaps none is more interesting than Prometheus. Aside from being credited with giving humans the gift of fire, he also gave them livestock to eat. If you were someone in classical Greece listening to tales about Prometheus, chances are you'd think he had your back and was looking out for you.
Some Infosys trivia: Our New York City offices at Rockefeller Center overlook the beautiful gold statue of Prometheus. But that wasn't one of the reasons I took note of one of a handful of new websites that offer personalized DNA information. One such service is named Promethease. It's a word play on the classical Greek titan who took time, as the legends go, to help 'kickstart' mankind's development. Almost every culture and civilization has its own version of Prometheus. It's all too funny that he's back in the news after a couple thousand years because of modern day humans' quest to find more about themselves.
The genome, that genetic map of what makes up living organisms like us, is yielding some fascinating information these days. Advances in genetic science have incubated a number of web-based enterprises like Promethease that can deliver a personalized genetic report that lets the consumer see if she has so-called 'good' genes or 'bad' genes. In other words, you're essentially taking a genetic 'selfie.' If a young woman hires a web-based genetic testing service to map her genetic code and discovers she has the gene for breast cancer, she might choose to take matters into her own hands - going to a doctor and demanding she has a mastectomy decades before she even has the chance to develop the cancer.
Obviously these developments have opened a can of worms. It's something that often happens when the life sciences advance a lot more faster than society's ability to regulate (or even simply discuss and debate) medical situations. What's controversial here is that in the past, a patient would go to her doctor to discuss family history and, for the sake of this argument, the predisposition of getting a certain kind of cancer. Now, however, the patient has become the digital consumer. There are no medical doctors who serve as knowledgeable, tempered intermediaries. It's just the wide-open web and people willing to pay for the genetic information.
What's clear is that no genetic testing service is a soothsayer. None can, with 100 percent accuracy, predict what's in store for you and me, medically speaking. But as these services become more popular (and who wouldn't want a sneak-peek at what might be in your future?), the healthcare industry must begin leveraging the right technological tools to deal with this surge of consumer data. I predict that entrepreneurs will seek to capitalize on the human desire to know what a person might or might not contract 20 years hence. They're already commercializing genetic information that once rested solely in the realm of the medical world.
I think it's safe to say that genetic information is the first of many big-ticket items that will be commercialized within the life sciences industry and available for purchase by the highest bidder. The digital marketplace has given humans the option of learning more about their medical futures than they might need or want to. When a layman has information that he isn't trained to understand yet acts on it with medical treatments and surgeries, he's playing with fire...