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Navigenics, 23andMe and Helix Health: The Review

The number of companies focusing on personalized genetics is growing. But currently, there are only 3 projects (Navigenics, 23andMe and Helix Health) that seem to have the potential to reach enough people. I’d like to share some thoughts with you about how informative their websites are and what kind of services they plan to provide in the future.

Navigenics

navigenics.jpg
Website:

  • Design: Simple (it’s positive). Their introduction video is in the focus which is a very good point. Furthermore, the structure of the subpages is clear, and there are links everywhere to make it easier to follow the content.

navigenics-full.jpg

  • Informativeness: One of the best introductions and explanations of personalized genetics. They feature all the 3 essential issues:
  • We are advised by leading genetic scientists, physicians, genetic counselors, bioethicists, patient advocates, and policy experts to ensure we make the best decisions about our services.
  • We are committed to grounding our service in the latest scientific knowledge about genetics, health and disease prevention while presenting information in a highly transparent, personalized and actionable way.
  • We protect your personal genetic information, recognizing that it belongs to you and you alone. Should you decide you want to share your information with a health-care professional, we make it easy to do so.
  • Team: The whole team is introduced in details. The advisors, the directors and the investors all have a short description of themselves. That’s how it should work on all of the medical websites.

Service:

  • Method: The sample of the patient (through a “saliva kit”) will be tested for nearly a million genetic markers on a gene chip manufactured by Affymetrix. No information regarding the details (for example, even if it’s not public due to business reasons, I’d like to know what kind of single nucleotide polymorphisms they analyze, etc.). According to the science writer, David Ewing Duncan: But Navigenics’ site won’t release all of the data collected by the chip, only the designated panel of gene tests. The company plans to offer information and telephone support from genetic counselors, and a subscription to its service will last a year.
  • Cost: Patients will be charged between $2,000 and $3,000. As the WSJ Blog described, this fee will also cover consultations with a genetic counselor and a year of updates as more SNPs and diseases are validated and added to the test. Annual subscriptions for additional updates will be available for about $250.
  • Target: They will tell consumers their risk for about 20 medical conditions, including diabetes, obesity, prostate cancer and glaucoma
  • Media Coverage: VentureBeat; Eye on DNA; WSJ Blog; Genetic Genealogist; Gene Sherpa and Wired.

23andMe:

23andme.jpg

Website:

  • Design: Very simplistic.

23andme-full.jpg

  • Informativeness: As the company doesn’t plan to provide details until it is ready to launch the product, there are only some subpages about contact information and job opportunities.

Our goal is to connect you to the 23 paired volumes of your own genetic blueprint (plus your mitochondrial DNA), bringing you personal insight into ancestry, genealogy, and inherited traits. By connecting you to others, we can also help put your genome into the larger context of human commonality and diversity.

  • Team: A short description of the founders. Anyway, the company has backing from Google (Anna Wojcicki is the wife of Google’s Sergey Brin) and Esther Dyson is one of the ten volunteers for the Personal Genome Project.

Service:

  • Method: The patient will send a DNA sample to Illumina for genotyping. According to VentureBeat, instead of scanning the whole genome letter-by-letter, Illumina’s microbead-based scanners detect hundreds of single-letter DNA variations that give a useful but rough approximation of what the full genome would look like. The company will then put that information up on a secure Web page, where users could analyze it; trace their genealogy and create social networks where they can compare and contrast their genetics.

Helix Health:

helix-health.jpg

Website:

  • Design: Colourful, nice design with clear stucture. Plenty of subpages that provide a huge amount of information.

helix-health-full.jpg

  • Informativeness: Really informative. The site describes what personalized medicine is about; how it can help patients to live a healthier life and it also helps physicians with the indications for referral to Helix Health. The site makes it easier for laypeople to know more about these diseases and predispositions by featuring patient stories.

The Helix Health team is comprised of physicians and genetic counselors with the experience, medical expertise and specialized genetics training to ensure that our patients are doing the most to optimize their health and wellness and that of their family. We work in concert with traditional medical providers in ongoing consultation to best advise patients on genetic testing and the complex interpretation of test results.

  • Team: Clinicians, genetic counselors and the scientific advisors are all introduced with short CVs.

Service:

  • Method: A consultation with genetic counselors, coordination of genetic testing and a detailed health management plan based on the patient’s risk evaluation and genetic test results. But no information about the type of testing (SNPs, gene expression profiles, etc.). Details of the literature review are available upon request.
  • Cost: No information.
  • Target:It provides genetic testing for:
  • Media Coverage: Steve Murphy, the founder of Helix Health is the author of The Gene Sherpa blog which focuses on personalized genetics.

Discussion: Hard to say anything clever at this point. I’d say, for me, Navigenics‘ service isn’t worth 2500 $ as they don’t really tell me what kind of SNPs they analyze. So I don’t know what exactly I get for my money. 23andMe seems to be focused mainly on genealogy information and genetic social networking while Helix Health seems to provide the “most personal” service but probably they have the weakest financial background among these companies. What you can take for granted is that there’ll be an even bigger media coverage about these projects as they will rule the next years in personalized medicine.

If we could merge the real advantages of these companies:

  • the fantastic team of Navigenics and their unique business model;
  • the financial background of 23andMe; the focus on genealogy information and social networking;
  • the personal aspect of Helix Health and their potential to serve and help physicians as well,

…then it would be the perfect service. But it’s impossible to compare them properly as they are all unique in their own way and will probably find their base of customers.

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28 Comments Post a comment
  1. “Navigenics‘ service isn’t worth 2500 $ as they don’t really tell me what kind of SNPs they analyze. ”

    Navigenics has paired with Affymetrix and will probably be testing based on the Affymetrix 6.0 microarray. If so, of the ~900,000 snps on the chip there are the 219 for which I’m aware of annotation ( http://www.snpedia.com/index.php?title=Category:On_chip_Affy_GenomeWide_6 ) . Of these I’ve read that they intend to actually report the results for about 20 snps.

    23andMe is based on the Illumina platform and will most likey be using their chip with 1M snps ( http://www.snpedia.com/index.php?title=Category:On_chip_Illumina_Human_1M ). 404 of those snps currently have annotations. However the 23andMe social networking model, could allow them to connect you to others with your same genotype for any of the 1M, not just the subset with annotation. If so this opens the possibility for some intriguing bottom up annotation (ie. we don’t know anything about the mechanisms of this snp, but 95% of the people with the genotype C;C genotype report preferring outdoor sports to reading books).

    November 11, 2007
    • Earl T Dumitru, PhD #

      Now is May 5,2009, and Sergy Brin (23andME.com) is collecting 10,000 Parkinsons Patients (PD) in a data-base, intended for “bottoms-up analysis. There is an overlap of Clinical definitions with Alzheimers (ALZ) and PD There is very litle overlap at the research level, and funding for research is captive to this specialization. Prof Larry Goldstein of UCSan Diego maay have some comments if asked .

      May 5, 2009
  2. Berci,
    I am honored to be reviewed by you. Our company has many other advisors, physicians, trainers, pharmacists, and nutritionists. We just felt pressed to put up our site prior to their official signing. More updates on the site are soon to come. Do we need the strong backing of a VC firm yet? Not until we finalize our plans for expansion.
    -Steve
    http://www.helixhealth.org

    November 11, 2007
  3. Sorry,
    One last point. Our consultations are with physicians as well as genetic counselors.
    -Steve
    ww.helixhealth.org

    November 11, 2007
  4. Bud #

    Hello Berci,
    Any similar thoughts/analysis re: http://www.knome.com?

    November 11, 2007
  5. Cariaso: Thank you for the nice explanation!

    Steve: It was my pleasure. You don’t need the strong backing of a VC, and I didn’t mean it as a negative point.

    Bud: I definitely should! I’ll write about it soon.

    November 11, 2007
  6. jessverr #

    Hi Berci,

    It’s great to read your thoughts on this space. I also follow these companies but am brand new to the blog space and have just begun writing here: http://intellitech.wordpress.com/. I wanted to ask– what do you think about DNAdirect? They seem like they could be included in this category. Interestingly, they include on their website a list of “drug response testing” services that should provide true immediate value to patients and providers if accurate.

    Great post!

    November 12, 2007
  7. Jessverr, I added your blog to my feedreader and it seems I have to write an other review about Knome and DNA Direct and many more similar companies.

    November 12, 2007
  8. PersonalGnome #

    Bertalan, nice side-by-side comparison. Have you considered adding http://www.biophysicalcorp.com/ into the collection of companies? I realize they work at the protein level (predictive biomarkers) rather than genomic level, the goal seems to be the same: predicting your future personal health and providing health guidance based on the predictions. Acutally, it would be interesting to hear your thoughts on the reliability of genome-based vs proteome-based health predictions. Thanks.

    November 12, 2007
  9. Bertalan,
    I like your review, but am all too aware that research has a long way to go to get to the point of personal genomics and truly personalized medicine. Our biomedical informatics company is helping such translational research: http://www.biofortis.com.

    A molecular oncologist by training, I get a lot of questions regarding disease predispositions for which there is no intervention currently available. Some of these companies will clearly stay away from such controversy. Such biomedical ethics dillemas will need to play out in the genetics arena. Personally, I’d rather know (and have the opportunity to plan) than not know, but there are lots of people that feel the opposite. We are all interested in seeing how commercially successful these new personalized genomics companies will be!

    November 12, 2007
  10. Zsolt Harsanyi, Ph.D. #

    Dear Bertalan,
    In 1981 I authored a book, Genetic Prophecy: Beyond the Double Helix, developing the concept of predictive medicine. At that time, we didn’t have hundreds of SNP’s that could be correlated with clinical outcomes. We only had a number of biological markers, such as HLA and blood group antigens, and enzyme variants that were, of course, products of genes. The problem then, as it is now, lies in the practical consequences of knowing who is likely to develop a medical condition. I would judge each of the companies you reviewed on the usefulness of the information they provide to the individual, whether it is based on genes, proteins, or even physiological parameters.
    Keep probing.

    November 12, 2007
  11. Barb #

    Navigenics is the only site that tells you their testing laboratory has CLIA certification which is essential for clinical laboratories and tells the consumer – physician or patient – that the lab meets high criteria for quality testing. Research labs rarely meet these standards of operation. Caveat emptor…….

    November 12, 2007
  12. Thank you for the valuable comments! I’m going to write more reviews as I get more and more requests and there are plenty of companies to cover. Stay tuned!

    November 13, 2007
  13. Michelle Kelleher #

    Assuming Navigenics are using standard Affymetrix arrays, which I would guess they are, on Affymetrix’s website you can log into an application called NetAffx which gives searchable annotation information for the SNP’s they screen – including mapping information and external links to other sites

    http://www.affymetrix.com/support/help/genotyping_glossary/index.affx

    I haven’t worked for Affymetrix for several years but as far as I know after registering anyone can still use NetAffx for free. I’m assuming Navigenics will utilize all this information but will only provide information on SNP’s scientifically correlated with disease. Also don’t forget that SNP’s are primarily used to map genes associated with illness and are most likely not located in actual genes so additional tests and probably sequencing will probably be required.

    December 19, 2007
  14. tom #

    you’re amazingly hot. what’s your preference: M, F or M+F

    December 21, 2007
  15. interesting comments and post…

    November 21, 2010

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. wordburner » Navigenics, 23andMe and Helix Health: The Review
  2. The Genetic Genealogist » Navigenics - A Personal Genomics Start-Up
  3. 23andMe: The Re-Review « ScienceRoll
  4. Gene Genie #20 | The Molecular Biology Blog
  5. A Round-Up of Discussions Following the Launch of deCODEme and 23andMe » The Genetic Genealogist
  6. Knome: The Review « ScienceRoll
  7. Bio::Blogs #17 - The one Santa brough us
  8. Personal Genome Explorer at Home: How to analyze the results of your genome? « ScienceRoll
  9. 23andme extracts your gene code - are you ready to face the results? « Atentia’s Weblog
  10. The Mission of Navigenics: Interview « ScienceRoll
  11. A living, breathing, test tube | A human's experiment, one science day at a time
  12. 23andMe Now Offers Sequencing for $999 « ScienceRoll

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