Portfolio Company Spotlight
Bringing genome-enabled health care to everyone
May 2020 – Genomics is driving precision medicine, value-based care and many other advances, but there are still barriers to overcome. The ongoing shortage of clinical genomics experts to interpret results is a major bottleneck, keeping many patients from getting the care they need.
That’s why Illumina Ventures invested in Genome Medical, which is combining clinical expertise with a sophisticated digital platform to scale genomics and meet the world’s growing demand.
“Genome Medical is creating a one-stop resource for patients to access specialists and genetic testing, learn about their results and take the appropriate actions,” said Nick Naclerio, founding partner at Illumina Ventures. “This is a critical step to ensure genomic sequencing can benefit everyone.”
Combining Technology with Clinical Expertise
Genome Medical is a full medical practice, with MD geneticists, genetic counselors, and other medical professionals. This team works with individual patients and providers to determine who can benefit from genomic analyses and which test(s) would be most appropriate. They also interpret results and help formulate clinical care plans for patients to turn results into action.
In addition, the company has developed its proprietary Genomic Care DeliveryTM platform that helps people learn about genomics, share health information, complete personal assessments, and conduct telehealth consultations with experts.
“We're building the world's largest network of clinical genomics expertise, and that's all about improving access to specialists,” said CEO and co-founder, Lisa Alderson. “We are also developing the digital infrastructure to deliver genomic medicine at scale for much broader reach.”
Patients start their journey with online scheduling and a brief genetic health assessment. Based on this information, the platform directs the individual to the most appropriate specialists.
“We ask for information that helps identify areas of interest and potential areas of need,” said Alderson. “That helps us match to the right clinician and helps to prepare both the patient and the provider for their consultation.”
During the first consultation, the genetics specialist assesses the patient’s needs orders appropriate testing. Once the test results come in, they explain the results ‒ with special emphasis on actionable findings ‒ and recommend next steps to guide follow-on care.
The team then puts together a care plan and circles back with the patient’s treating physician, who often has limited genomics experience.
“If the patient has an elevated risk for colon cancer, we might recommend a colonoscopy at an earlier age,” said Alderson. “If it’s an increased risk of breast cancer, we might recommend an MRI in addition to an annual mammogram. These measures are likely to lead to earlier detection and improve outcomes for these patients – if we catch cancer early, it’s much more treatable.”
Partnering with Health Systems
Genome Medical works with both large academic medical centers and community hospitals to expand their genomic capabilities and reach more patients. This is especially important for small, local facilities, which may not have access to this level of genomic expertise.
“We are democratizing access to genetics for patients in every zip code,” said Alderson. “We partner with health systems that don't have genetics to break down disparities in access and create a virtual genetics department to provide vitally needed services for patients in their own communities.”
For health systems that already offer genetics and genomics, Genome Medical can enhance those capabilities, and help serve more patients. In some cases, the company supports specific specialty areas throughout the system, such as cardiovascular care or reproductive health.
“If you think about most health systems, even those that have genetics, they typically have three or four genetic counselors. They may or may not have MD geneticists,” said Alderson. “In these cases, we partner to augment this expertise and support six different specialty care areas across all 50 states. So, we are additive, even when a genetics department is already in place.”
Genome Medical is also developing better ways to help patients navigate their care and working with large providers to support population genomics. The common thread is improving patient care and helping illuminate the genetic underpinnings for many diseases.
“We like to dream big, and we think about how we can improve the health of millions of people,” said Alderson. “Just think about a million patients. If we could find the percentage that are at high risk for cancer or cardiovascular disease and treat them appropriately, we would be providing clinical care where it is needed most and doing it long before most people become symptomatic. This offers tremendous promise for improved quality of care and cost of care.”