Genos launches sequencing service to 'crowdsource cures'

DNA
Genos' exome-sequencing service retails for $499, but customers can get paid for volunteering their data for research projects.

Complete Genomics spinout Genos is breaking out of beta testing and unveiling its genetic sequencing service. While it highlights an individual’s right to access his or her own genome, Genos bills itself as a company that uses sequencing to “crowdsource cures.”

Genos joins 23andme and Veritas in the consumer genetics market, but with some differences. Genos’ service, like Veritas' is physician-ordered, putting it in the same regulatory category as regular lab tests. Genos screens the entire exome, including 50 times more data than “current popular sequencing options,” according to the company. It is also the first such service that enables customers to choose if and how their genetic data will be used in academic and commercial research, the company said in a statement. Customers will be compensated depending on the projects for which they volunteer their data.

"Genos' goal is to build the world's largest community of empowered, consenting, sequenced individuals, which will have a significant impact on the industry," said George Church, a professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School and MIT, in the statement. "If we want to shorten the time to medical cures, we need to break down the silos between genomic data and research and move ownership to the individual. The best way to do that is to foster the relationship between individuals and the research community, which is precisely what Genos is doing."

In contrast, researchers wishing to use genetic data gleaned from 23andMe’s service must submit requests to the company. These have been steadily rising over the past few years, with the company reporting 25 such requests in the fall of 2013, and 45 requests a year later.

As part of the launch, Genos revealed several partnerships, including one with the Broad Institute to study the prion protein in an effort to ward off prion disease, and with Patrick Soon-Shiong’s NantBioScience and NantKwest. The latter two collaborations surround clinical studies for lymphoma, breast cancer and Merkel cell carcinoma, a rare skin cancer. Soon-Shiong invested $6 million in Genos through his NantOmics business ahead of the launch.

While Genos’ platform offers the most extensive sequencing, the service costs $499, less than Veritas' $999 myGenome service, more than double the price of 23andMe’s direct-to-consumer $199 health and ancestry test. This poses the question of who, exactly, is inclined to get their genome sequenced and can afford to do so. But getting paid for participating in research projects may tip the scale for someone who may otherwise skip sequencing.

Correction: This story originally referred to the Genos platform as direct-to-consumer. It is, in fact, a physician-ordered service.