5 things to know about Mayo Clinic's at-home DNA-testing service, GeneGuide

Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic has entered the direct-to-consumer DNA-testing market.

More than 26 million people have already taken an at-home DNA test, according to a recent analysis by MIT Technology Review. The majority of these customers — nearly 90 percent — purchased tests from one of two industry giants in the direct-to-consumer genetic-testing space: 23andMe and Ancestry.

However, new entrants to the market are increasingly interested in marrying the benefits of clinical consultation with a physician to the convenience of at-home testing.

Five things to know about one of the newest products on the market, Mayo Clinic's GeneGuide:

1. In October 2018, Mayo Clinic launched GeneGuide with Helix, a DNA-sequencing company. Since 2017, Helix has been operating the first online marketplace to offer customers products tailored to their genetics, such as personalized tools and services related to ancestry, fitness and nutrition.

2. Mayo Clinic designed GeneGuide to provide healthy customers with insights related to health and disease, such as analysis of disease-causing genes associated with various hereditary conditions. A purchase also gives customers access to educational modules from Mayo Clinic and opportunities to speak with providers affiliated with the health system.

3. Mayo Clinic said customers can share test results with their providers to inform decisions related to their healthcare — for example, to inform next steps if GeneGuide determines a customer may be at risk for a specific condition.

"We need to work toward a future where everyone can benefit from individualized medicine products and services," Dr. Keith Stewart, Carlson and Nelson endowed director of the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine, said in a news release. "Mayo Clinic GeneGuide will introduce genomics to a broader audience that Mayo Clinic aspires to engage and educate."

4. Here's what happens when a customer purchases GeneGuide through the Helix marketplace:

  • A physician from Mayo Clinic reviews the customer's health history to determine whether the product is appropriate for their needs
  • The physician orders the test through Helix's clinical lab
  • Helix ships the test, which involves a saliva collection kit, to the customer
  • The customer completes the test and delivers a saliva sample to Helix's lab
  • Helix sequences the customer's DNA
  • Mayo Clinic interprets the customer's sequenced DNA results
  • The customer accesses genetic test reports on their health and disease risk through Mayo Clinic's GeneGuide web application

5. Mayo Clinic is one of Helix's founding investors, and maintains a financial interest in the startup. Helix announced plans to launch a DNA-based health product in collaboration with Mayo Clinic in March 2018, after closing a $200 million Series B funding round with participation from the health system.

"Mayo Clinic GeneGuide is an important step forward in helping people make informed health decisions involving DNA, and is a critical health product on the Helix platform," Justin Kao, co-founder and senior vice president of business development and partnerships at Helix, said in October. "By partnering with Mayo Clinic on this product we are excited to advance our mission to empower every person to improve their lives through DNA."

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