In a flurry of appearances over the course of a few days earlier this month, 23andMe’s CEO Anne Wojcicki articulated again the role personal genetics will play in health care, and what it might mean to have not just a million people genotyped, but millions.
“A million people walking around with their genomes, I believe, is going to be disruptive to the health care system,” she said on CBS This Morning last Thursday.
That disruption is a good thing, she said. By giving people access to their genetic information and insight into their own health, individuals — with the advice of their their doctors — can take more informed measures in keeping themselves healthy. That’s a change to a system that traditionally waits until someone is sick to take action, Anne said.
On the Fox Business program The Willis Report, Anne — along with Emily Drabant Conley, PhD, 23andMe’s business development manager — explained how offering people access to their personal genetic information will help give them “a roadmap” for better health. This can alert individuals to their risks for disease and focus them and their physicians on the best plan for prevention.
Anne talked about this again on CNBC’s On The Money with Maria Bartiromo, where the host said the $99 test, “makes health and access to the data much more democratic.”
A day before her appearance on CBS, Anne said something similar at the Innovation Uncensored conference, hosted by Fast Company.
Empowering patients with their 23andMe results can help individuals prevent disease by alerting them to a risk beforehand. And, she said, health care reform — with its emphasis on controlling costs and prevention — will also push this change.
“Healthcare reform will mean we’re all more invested in keeping people healthy,” she said.
Beyond that, 23andMe’s model also has the power to transform research. By leveraging the power of the Internet, 23andMe’s model enlists individuals in the research process. It offers people a chance to participate, and help in research they believe is important, while also giving them something in return — access to their own results. This has sped up the research, and helped create communities focused on certain diseases. The data 23andMe gathers is also a resource for researchers, or as she said to The New York Times:
“We’re creating a resource for humanity and we don’t want to be the only ones who are getting access to it. As many people as possible should get access to that data,” she said.
Having a million people genotyped, or millions of people, also offers a huge opportunity to gain more insight into not just the genetics behind disease, but the genetics of good health.
“There’s a power in having big data,” she said.