Genetic testing is starting to gain traction in both the consumer and clinical healthcare markets, a trend that is likely to continue as our knowledge of genomics grows. Genetic testing can tell us if we are predisposed to certain diseases, if we have an infectious disease caused by a pathogen and even if certain drugs are likely to work on us and are safe to use (pharmacogenomics). It is therefore unsurprising that there is so much commercial interest in this growing field, from large tech companies to big pharma.
But what is the impact of all this - what is genetic testing pushing out of the market and where are the new areas for growth?
One area likely to see significant disruption in the next 10 years is infectious disease testing. Infectious disease testing ideally needs to be done cheaply, quickly, accurately and reliably. Traditionally, such testing has been carried out using lateral flow assays which resemble pregnancy tests, with over 1 billion being produced each year. These tests have the advantage of being easy to use, disposable and of low cost. However, recent technological advances mean that genetic testing can now be carried out in minutes on a portable device. These genetic tests, known as molecular diagnostics, are much more accurate and reliable than lateral flow assays and can be used to distinguish between different species of pathogens - such as those that are resistant to certain drugs.
Genetic testing has uses beyond testing for diseases when someone is unwell. The healthcare industry is undergoing significant change, moving away from centralized to de-centralized testing and becoming much more patient-focused. No longer is the emphasis on treating disease, but instead on detecting potential problems early on and preventing them from occurring in the first place. This is presenting opportunities, as exemplified by the large number of companies attempting to enter the field. Genetic testing gives significant opportunities to move to a model of preventative and consumer-centric healthcare - however, there are a number of hurdles that must be addressed first.