May 29: As part of my three-part Google Health series last week analyzing the Google Medical strategy in-depth, I dissected the latest Google health care moves and reviewed the Google $3.9 investment in Mrs. Sergey Brin's bioinformatics company, 23andMe, as a key part of Google's strategic ambition to control all the world's medical information, and advertising (ready story below).
In addition to Google, Genentech, MDV-Mohr Davidow Ventures and New Enterprise Associates have invested in 23andMe. Total funding is about $10 million, according to the New York Times.
“This is a completely new thing, and that’s exactly why we invested,” said Patrick Chung, New Enterprise Associates partner. “Everyone can relate to this. Everyone has a genetic blueprint.”
"Everyone's genetic blueprint" certainly represents an important part of the world's personal information that Google has set its sights on.
MAY 24, 2007: Google Wants $4 billion Drug Ad Market in 23andMe
The $2 trillion worth of health care pieces are all coming Googley together!
Our goal is to allow individuals to gain deeper insights into their ancestry, genealogy and inherited traits and, ultimately, the option to work together to advance the overall understanding of the human genome.
Who could possibly argue with such a human empowering motive? AND, the company is being advised by a group of renowned experts in the fields of human genetics, genomics, bio-ethics, and bioinformatics, to boot!
Move over Google’s pedestrian “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” motto?
In good Mrs. Brin fashion, Wojcicki actually has a lot more up her biotech sleeves. After all, she didn’t spend ten years in “healthcare investing” without figuring out what the BIG investment bets will be in the $2 trillion industry.
Anne left the investing world with the hope that she could have a positive impact on the medical world and the biotechnology industry through 23andMe, her corporate bio says.
Just as Google needs to amend its corporate mission statement to reflect its true advertising industry driven business purpose, 23andMe needs to amend the Wojcicki mission statement to reflect 23andMe’s pharmaceutical and consumer health care products industry driven business purpose.
Anne saw a need for creating a way to generate more information—especially more personalized information—so that biotech and pharmaceutical companies could better understand and develop new drugs and diagnostics. By encouraging individuals to access and learn about their own genetic information, 23andMe will create a common, standardized resource that has the potential to accelerate drug discovery and bring personalized medicine to the public.
Translation? Bioinformatics meets ecommerce in “Consumer-focused DNA processing,” and pharmaceuticals.
Bioinformatics is broadly defined as: The collection, organization and analysis of large amounts of biological data, using networks of computers and databases:
Historically, bioinformatics concerned itself with the analysis of the sequences of genes and their products (proteins), but the field has since expanded to the management, processing, analysis and visualization of large quantities of data from genomics, proteomics, drug screening and medicinal chemistry. Bioinformatics also includes the integration and “mining” (detailed searching) of the ever-expanding databases of information from these disciplines.
COMMERCIAL IMPLICATIONS? The National Institutes of Health:
The advertising of health-related products directly to consumers, a $3 billion per year industry, first appeared in the early 1980's with the marketing of prescription drugs in print and television advertisements. As additional genetic testing companies adopt this marketing strategy, more research is needed to evaluate the benefits and consequences of the direct-to-consumer (DTC) marketing of genetic tests.
In addition to print and television, many companies use the Internet to market their genetic tests to consumers, including clinically available tests pertaining to disorders and genetic tests for nutrition, behavior, and aging. A consumer can purchase face cream and supplements formulated specifically for their genetic composition, order a test to predict if they are likely to develop addictive or hyperactive behaviors, and a pregnant woman can have a blood test to see if her fetus has a chromosome abnormality. All of these non-clinical tests lack scientific support, and thus, the validity of the information on these websites' should be thoughtfully assessed.
Marketing on the Internet is particularly worrisome in that it many cases it can provide easy access to genetic tests without involving a health care professional in the testing process. Even the clinically available genetic tests, which may provide legitimate test results, can be difficult to interpret without genetic counseling.
Genetic test results not only apply to the individual across his/her entire lifespan, but have implications to other family members as well. Therefore, it will be important for sound public policy to be developed in the area of oversight in both the provision and marketing of such tests.
COMMERCIAL IMPLICATIONS? U.S. Government Accountability Office:
Drug company spending on DTC advertising—such as that on television and in magazines—of prescription drugs increased twice as fast from 1997 through 2005 as spending on promotion to physicians or on research and development. Drug companies spent $4.2 billion in 2005 on DTC advertising.
Studies GAO reviewed suggest that DTC advertising has contributed to increases in drug spending and utilization, for example, by prompting consumers to request the advertised drugs from their physicians, who are generally responsive to these requests. Evidence suggests that the effect of DTC advertising on consumers can be both positive, such as encouraging them to talk to their doctors, and negative, such as increased use of advertised drugs when alternatives may be more appropriate.
Google’s “wedding gift” to Sergey’s Anne is certainly an opportune one for the Google medical push. As all things Googley, however, consumers beware.
FULL THREE-PART GOOGLE HEALTH SERIES: