Direct-to-consumer genetic tests are a ‘turning point’ for precision medicine, analysts say

23andMe spit kit
Tests offered by companies like 23andMe could launch the "democratization" of precision medicine, according to analysts. (23andMe)

The federal government is already investing millions of dollars into precision medicine research, but the ability for consumers to access their genetic information without having to see a physician could be a launchpad for personalized medicine.

Allowing patients to understand their genetic makeup through 10 FDA-approved screening tests offered through 23andMe will be a “turning point in the democratization of personalized medicine,” two analysts with the Manhattan Institute wrote in the Wall Street Journal.

“In fact, the right to know the risks contained in your genetic code will likely become the most fundamental medical right of the 21st century,” Senior Fellows Peter Huber and Paul Howard wrote in an op-ed.

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Their argument revolves around the idea that direct-to-consumer genetic tests arm patients with more information about their health, which is likely to drive engagement. Companies like 23andMe are also providing more access to researchers studying genetic risk factor for diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s by allowing users to opt into research projects. Although it could further disease-specific research, data sharing within genetic tests have also been a concern for some who worry how companies could sell that information.

Genetic testing has garnered tremendous hype for its ability to advance personalized treatment options—but some researchers have urged caution when it comes to interpreting those tests.

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Meanwhile, researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the University of Pennsylvania argued that a concurrent focus on precision delivery is necessary to ensure genomic research reaches its full potential within the healthcare industry.