As demand for DTC at-home genetic testing increases among consumers and healthcare professionals, clinical laboratories that offer similar assays may want to offer their own DTC testing program
Things are happening in the direct-to-consumer (DTC) medical laboratory testing market. Prior to the pandemic, the number of consumers interested in ordering their own diagnostic tests grew at a rapid rate. The SARS-CoV-2 outbreak, however, and the need for consumers to access COVID-19 tests, caused DTC test sales to skyrocket.
LetsGetChecked describes itself as a “virtual care company that allows customers to manage their health from home, providing direct access to telehealth services, pharmacy, and [clinical] laboratory tests with at-home sample collection kits for a wide range of health conditions,” according to the company’s LinkedIn page.
“Through these acquisitions, LetsGetChecked will leverage the power of whole genome sequencing to launch a full lifecycle of personalized healthcare, delivering the most comprehensive health testing and care solution on the market,” said Peter Foley, Founder and CEO of LetsGetChecked in a press release.
“By integrating Veritas Genetics’ and Veritas Intercontinental’s capabilities with LetsGetChecked’s scalable diagnostic and virtual care infrastructure, we are able to turn comprehensive genetic insights into practical recommendations and lifestyle changes, guided by clinical experts,” he added.
Leveraging the Power of Whole Genome Sequencing
To date, LetsGetChecked claims it has delivered nearly three million at-home direct-to-consumer tests and served more than 300 corporate customers with testing services and biometric screening solutions since its founding in 2015.
The company focuses on manufacturing, logistics, and lab analysis in its CAP-accredited, CLIA-certified laboratory in Monrovia, Calif., as well as physician support, and prescription fulfillment. The DTC company’s products include at-home tests for women’s health, men’s health, basic wellness, sexual health, and SARS-CoV-2 testing.
Veritas Genetics also was a DTC testing company co-founded by internationally-known geneticist George Church, PhD. In 2016, the company announced it would deliver a whole human genome sequence (WGS) for just $999—breaking the $1,000 cost barrier for whole genome sequencing.
“There is no more comprehensive genetic test than your whole genome,” Rodrigo Martinez, former Veritas Chief Marketing and Design Officer, told CNBC. “So, this is a clear signal that the whole genome is basically going to replace all other genetic tests. And this [price drop] gets it closer and closer and closer.”
That market strategy did not succeed. By the end of 2019, the company announced it would cease operations in the United States but continue operations in Europe and Latin America. It has sought a buyer for the company since that time. Now, almost three years later, LetsGetChecked will become the new owner of Veritas Genetics.
Veritas’ primary product, myGenome was launched in 2018 as a whole genome sequencing and interpretation service to help consumers improve their health and increase longevity. The myGenome test screens for and provides insight on many hereditary diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and neurological disorders. It also provides observations on more than 50 personal traits and ancestry information.
In addition to bringing whole genome sequencing abilities to its test offerings for consumers, LetsGetChecked hopes the acquisitions will create new testing capabilities such as pharmacogenomics, cancer and viral screenings, and maternal fetal screenings.
“By integrating Veritas Genetics’ and Veritas Intercontinental’s genetics offering with our scalable virtual care infrastructure, we are able to leverage the power of whole genome sequencing to launch a full lifecycle of personalized healthcare, which has always been our goal,” Foley told MobiHealthNews.
Veritas Genetics and Veritas Intercontinental will continue to operate under the LetsGetChecked family of companies.
BioIQ also Acquired by LetsGetChecked
In early May, LetsGetChecked also acquired diagnostic testing and health improvement technology company BioIQ, which will continue to operate as a wholly-owned subsidiary.
BioIQ offers at-home tests, health screenings, and vaccinations to consumers. The company’s products include:
Heart health panel,
Prevention panel, and
Individual tests offered by BioIQ include:
Hepatitis C test and
Sexually transmitted diseases.
BioIQ also offer e-vouchers for health screenings and vaccinations at participating retail pharmacies, clinical laboratories, and physician’s offices.
“The future of healthcare is in providing high-quality at-home diagnostics and care that comprehensively serve an individual’s health needs throughout their whole life,” said Foley in a press release about the BioIQ acquisition. “With this acquisition, LetsGetChecked gains a trusted partner with an extensive knowledge base and a breadth of experience in serving health plans and employer markets to deliver healthcare solutions at scale.”
These acquisitions by LetsGetChecked demonstrate how genetic testing companies are pivoting to new strategies. Clinical laboratories that perform genetic testing will want to monitor how these partnerships unfold in the future as healthcare consumers and providers continue to embrace at-home genetic testing.
As consumer demand increases for medical laboratory testing services that bypass the supervision of primary care doctors, clinical laboratories may be affected
Direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic testing organizations and telecommunications companies in South Korea are collaborating to help consumers stay informed of their health status by sending lab test results directly to their mobile devices without requiring physician involvement. What can labs in the West learn from these developments?
Founded in 2015, NGeneBio provides smartphone-based healthcare services for individuals who solicit genetic testing. Through the partnership, KT plans to combine its knowledge of artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud computing with NGeneBio’s genetic decoding expertise to “provide services such as tailored health management (diet and exercise therapy) services, and storage and management of personal genome analysis information.”
No Doctors Involved?
Outside of genealogy, the general intent of DTC genetic testing is to equip consumers with certain genetic data that may help them manage their healthcare without requiring visits to their healthcare provider. The healthcare information provided through the NGeneBio venture will include data delivered directly to customers’ smartphones on the status of their:
According to an article in Korean business news publication Pulse, “Genetic test services in Korea are restricted to some 70 categories, such as the analysis of the risk of hair loss, high blood pressure, and obesity.”
Last September, Pulse reported, Korean mobile carrier SK Telecom Co. announced a similar partnership with Macrogen Inc. to introduce a mobile app-based DNA testing service called “Care8 DNA.” To utilize this service, consumers order a DNA test kit, take a saliva sample via mouth swab, and then send the kit to a clinical laboratory for analysis. Users typically receive their test results on the Care8 DNA app (available from both Google Play and Apple’s App Store) within a few weeks.
The service costs ₩8,250 South Korean won ($7.36 US) per month. A one-year subscription to the service costs ₩99,000 won or $88.36 US. The Care8 DNA app features 29 testing services, including:
possibility of hair loss,
resistance to nicotine,
the body’s recovery speed after exercise,
Along with those results, consumers can receive personalized health coaching guidance from professionals like nutritionists and exercise physiologists to improve their overall wellbeing, Pulse noted.
In February 2019, Macrogen became the first company in South Korea to take advantage of the government’s relaxed regulations on DTC genetic testing, Korea Biomedical Review reported. In addition to the basic services offered through the Care8 DNA app, Macrogen’s DTC tests also can cover 13 diseases, including:
“A DTC genetic test is a contactless healthcare service suitable for the COVID-19 era. The expansion of detailed test items allows users to comprehensively check nutrients, obesity, skin, hair, eating habits, and exercise characteristics at one time,” an official at Theragen Bio told Korea Biomedical Review. “We expect that our service will attract more attention from consumers.”
What Can Be Learned?
Countries in Asia—particularly South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan—are among the fastest adopters of new technology in the world. Thus, it can be instructive to see how their consumers use healthcare differently than in the West, and how those users embrace new technologies to help them manage their health.
It is not certain how all this will impact clinical laboratories and genetic doctors in the western nations. Direct-to-consumer genetic testing has had its ups and downs, as Dark Daily reported in multiple e-briefings.
Nevertheless, these developments are worth watching. Worldwide consumer demand for genetic home testing, price transparency, and easy access to test results on mobile devices is increasing rapidly.
QuickCheck Health offers care delivery model that marries DTC diagnostic tests with physician review and follow-up
In an interesting twist on the direct-to- consumer (DTC) diagnostic testing market, QuickCheck Health (QCH) is developing a DTC testing platform that brings clinician oversight into the process.
Most pathologists and clinical laboratory managers know that over-the-counter (OTC) testing is one of the faster growing market segment of in vitro diagnostics. A number of OTC products—including tests for urinary tract infections, pregnancy, ovulation, fertility, HIV, and other conditions—are already on the market, stated an article in Technology Review.
However, the existing direct-to-consumer testing model has at least two drawbacks. First, treatment or follow-up care for these DTC tests requires a visit to the doctor. Second, most physicians are reluctant to treat with medication without validating the DTC test results generated by patient self-testing.