Unless you have been living under a rock, you should be well aware that consumer genetics are booming and that the number of direct-to-consumer (DTC) companies offering genetic testing services is exploding. The world’s consumer genetic testing market was evaluated at US$117.1 in 2017, and by 2026 it is expected to rise to US$611.2M. As of early 2019, more than 26 million people have taken at-home DNA tests, and that number is only expected to go up, up and away.
The skyrocketing of consumer genetics can directly be attributed to the dwindling price of genotyping technologies and the gradual easing of the regulatory environment. What’s more, people are more concerned with their health nowadays, and are looking to take a preventive approach to their health rather than a reactive one. As such, consumers do not mind spending anywhere from £50 to £129 to have a sneak peek at what their genes are telling them.
Consumer genetics is no longer limited to genetic variant reporting and ancestry
And it goes without saying that the breadth of tests available to consumers today is only increasing. In their infancy, DTC companies would offer simple genetic variant association reporting, which was not of much practical use to consumers. It wasn’t long before companies started offering ancestry and genealogy DNA testing. Ancestry testing kits remain top sellers due to the strong network effect they generate (the more individuals use a service, the stronger the algorithms for creating ancestry estimates are).
More recently, we have witnessed the emergence of personalised lifestyle recommendation kits that can reveal your biological age by measuring the length of your telomeres (i.e. Teloyears), determine your epigenetic signature and its influence on your overall health (ie. Chronomics), predict your risk of developing serious health conditions (ie. breast and ovarian cancer – 23andMe BRCA1/BRCA2 testing) or preventing them (ie. Vitl), and even deliver genetic-based recommendations for fitness, weight loss, and skincare (some of these claims are generating controversy among researchers, however) (ie. Nell Health, GenePlaza, DNAfit ).
Other companies have gone one step further by offering whole genome sequencing (WGS) services rather than genotype-based services which only cover about 0.2% of your genome (learn why imputation methods are essential for DTC companies offering genotyping services). Of course, kits from these companies come with a heftier price tag (anywhere from £550-£1,000), but the price comes with quality as the reports provided are going to be more in depth than anything you could get from genotyping alone. Examples include:
- Dante Labs: offers WGS and delivers personalised reports for healthier living (rare diseases, prevention, medications, habits)
- Shivom, Sano Genetics, Nebula Genomics: offer WGS with a data-sharing aspect (consumers can be compensated for sharing their genomic data with researchers)
A little bit of spit can go a long way..
Getting a glimpse of what your genes have to say is easier than ever: spit in a tube (some kits require cheek swabs), send the sample and receive your much-anticipated genetics-based reports within a few weeks.
Although the process is straightforward for customers, DTC genetic testing companies have to assure a long list of logistics on their side ranging from designing the kit, figuring out shipping logistics, laboratory work (isolating DNA and genotyping/sequencing), to receiving the raw data.
But then, the raw data has to be processed and analysed in a production setup which can handle 100,000s to potentially 1,000,000s of samples in parallel. Ideally, these DTC genetic testing companies need a scalable, cloud-based system that can provide the storage space to store data and the computational resources to analyse the data, as well as the standardised and scalable bioinformatics algorithms needed to perform the analyses.
Want to boost your current DTC offering and don’t know how? Major tip – Outsource
Let’s focus in on the two critical aspects that any DTC genetic testing company needs to have absolutely clear from the get-go:
- Acquiring the raw genetic data (kit handling logistics, sample processing & data generation)
- Analysing the genetic data to create custom reports (data analysis)
If you are in the process of creating a consumer genetic product, you’re probably dealing with similar logistics. But listen closely: our #1 tip (and we can’t stress this enough) is know when to outsource.
Kit handling logistics, sample processing & data generation
The first part can be completely handled by external companies in a very cost-effective manner. Such companies offer tailored genotyping services which take care of all your kit shipping logistics and genotyping needs with fast-turnaround times and high-quality results.
If you are in the process of setting up these services, don’t forget to check out Eurofins, a network of testing labs, as this is probably going to be your best bet. Imagine the glory of getting genotyping results for your customers without dealing with shipping or getting your hands dirty in a lab…the dream!
Once you’ve figured out the laboratory aspects of your genetic testing product, you are now faced with the task of data analysis, which can be quite daunting. Analysing the raw genetic data brings along many associated challenges, including:
- A high level of expertise required to:
- setup and implement bioinformatics analyses
- setup a Cloud-based account with scalable resources and automation to process many samples simultaneously
- Ensure costs and time to run analyses is kept to a minimum, and
- Addressing data security and privacy issues
But for most DTC genetic testing companies, the main goal is to go-to-market fast and focus on customer acquisition rather than losing time on extracting genetic information from data. Therefore, it makes sense to outsource this as well!
Stop reinventing the wheel & focus on your go-to-market strategy instead
For this purpose, we developed Lifebit CloudOS to handle all the data analysis aspects DTC genetic testing companies require. To date, many budding and established DTC genetic testing companies use the Lifebit CloudOS system to:
- Serve as the required backend to your customer-facing webapp interface that performs & manages all analysis & data within your own Cloud in a federated manner.
- Reduce costs by >80%: eliminate the costs of domain-expert personnel, inefficient utilisation of cloud resources, and developing, operating & maintaining the services
- Reduce time-to-market from months to <1 week: spend time on marketing & customer acquisition strategies rather than months on reinventing the wheel
- Get agility in analyses offering: add new analyses as the business & science progresses
- Unlock more value from the data: leverage Lifebit’s AI/ML services to unlock new valuable insights for your customers
- Get best-in-class scalable analysis: get out-of-the-box analysis for omics data, and leverage Lifebit’s services to quickly & reliably build high-quality genetic apps
- Ensure compliance with full versioning and audit trails: a fully-automated auditable & versioned analysis tracking dashboard with information about data, runtime, environment, parameters used, logs & costs.
Launch your revenue-generating genetic product in a fraction of the time it would take you to do-it-yourself. Think days & weeks, not months!
“With Lifebit CloudOS, we have enhanced our clinical SaaS offering & reduced entry to market by >6 months. Most importantly, it provided our customers access to best-in-class AI-based omics analysis.”
–Nate Raine, COO @ Shivom
The Lifebit CloudOS Marketplace offers low-cost and production-ready solutions for analysis requirements in data intensive environments. You can sign up today on the Lifebit CloudOS platform to browse the offerings of easy-to-use marketplace genomics apps, which will enable you to effortlessly transform your customers’ raw genetic data into insightful and actionable reports. Our most popular DTC genetic apps include:
Each genetic app is specifically tailored to your needs. And we’re all ears! If there is a specific analysis pipeline you’d like to see on the Lifebit CloudOS Marketplace, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us to explore the possibilities.
Contact us today if you want Lifebit to help you solely focus on your business and go-to-market strategy.
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