My personal highlight from SxSW was Anne Wojcicki’s, from 23andMe, keynote talk.

Having been a keen geneticist for around eight years now the passion and rational Anne put forward for how the interpretation of genetic information could empower the public was refreshing. Do you know the feeling when you hear someone say exactly the same thing you’ve been thinking for years? Sharing a message that encompasses your beliefs in a manner, which you could never communicate yourself? That’s just how I felt.

Anne presented an eloquent message for the importance of genetic interpretation by framing it with the statistics of healthcare’s spiraling costs. She went on to explain how actually these costs were positive for industries, such as pharma and general hospitals, which make profits from the world’s deteriorating health and the ever-increasing burden of chronic disease.

Profit is not a bad thing; after all it’s what drives capitalism and economies. Further more these industries play a pivotal role in our current healthcare systems, however a paradigm shift from profiting from our illness to profiting from our health needs to happen. This is known as moving from a Fee for Service to a Pay for Performance model.

One key part of the pay for performance model is keeping people out of hospitals so they can continue to live healthy active lives and contribute to the economy. One way to achieve this is through patient empowerment, if we knew or understood our health risks we may be more inclined to improve our lifestyle to prevent illness.

Anne drove home the message that genomics has the power to help us do this. We can start to understand what lifestyle changes we can make to life ‘healthy to one hundred’.

I respect Anne for her views and composure shown in front of a massive audience – with the majority being well aware of the recent actions by the FDA and the controversies currently surrounding personal genetic testing. At Geneix we have a similar ethos to 23andMe, and although we are focusing on optimizing prescribing practices, we believe that genetic sequencing can empower patients and drastically shift medicine from reactive to preventative. We are big supporters; we even left some spit with them after our visit to their headquarters in San Francisco last Monday.

Rock on 23andMe! The world is watching the FDA negotiations and the decision will surely set a global precedence for how genomic information is interpreted, until then we’re patiently awaiting our first personal genetic reports. We’ll be sure to share when they arrive.

Written by Mark Bartlett