Genomic medicine is transforming health care, and the need for accessible expertise will only continue to grow, says Murielle Thinard, Genome Medical’s new COO. She talked with writer Katherine Griffin about why she’s excited about joining the company, and why she sees Genome Medical as an essential part of health care’s transformation.
You started out in financial services—what drew you to health care?
It was really with the naive hubris of wanting to find a way to optimize healthcare. In this country, we spend over $3 trillion—more than the UK’s GDP—and get very poor results, ranking 37th by WHO standards. By contrast, my home country, France, spends half as much per capita while ranking number one. I thought part of the problem was the lack of information and, when information was present, the lack of key stakeholder alignment in the US healthcare system at large.
My career to this point had been about applying information to make better decisions. I was looking at how I could replicate that in health care, leveraging data to improve decision-making and move the paradigm from “sick care” to health care. Throughout my career, it’s been all about information and precision.
How do you see genomics fitting in?
I see genomics as a keystone of how medicine should be conducted in the future. Understanding genomics—someone’s entire genetic makeup—can help us move away from “blunt” treatment to personalized medicine.
We have already seen some of its promise in helping improve diagnosis and treatment. For instance, it is safer and more precise to analyze fetal DNA in a mother’s blood than to use traditional methods of finding chromosomal disorders. Genetically engineered cells can help fight AIDS. And in cancer, we have seen enormous increases in life expectancy by developing treatments based on genetic mutation.
More broadly, studies have shown that 16 percent of us carry mutations that are clinically actionable. Yet 80 percent of us don’t have ready access to providers who know how to assess those risks, or how to find experts who do.
Genomics is also starting to be used in improving the efficacy of medications. Today we spend as much on adverse drug-related morbidity as on drugs themselves, over $300 billion. And almost half of that is due to drug-to-gene or drug-to-drug to-gene interactions.
That’s why I really believe in the promise of genomics-based medicine.
Why did you join Genome Medical?
I saw the opportunity to help transform care—with the right team and the right backers. That was the magic trifecta.
We are a telegenomics platform company providing tools and care to accelerate the genomics revolution in everyday care. As a genomic clinical practice, our focus is on helping patients understand what they may be at risk for, how to think about it and what resources are available in the care system to help them.
Our mission is also to educate, provide the right risk assessment tools, choose the right tests and define the right clinical action plan to the providers.
We see ourselves as the North Star for the clinical application of genomics. There are over 75,000 tests available now, with 8,000 new tests coming every month, creating a world of confusion for providers, payers and patients alike. Our healthcare system at large is not equipped to deal with such a rapid evolution, as is evidenced by studies showing that one-third of the time, if you have no genetic expert involved, the wrong test is ordered.
That’s where Genome Medical can help, by being the expert available to both patients and physicians.
How do you see Genome Medical providing value to payers and employers?
For a payor who wants to move into the world of precision medicine, it is nearly impossible given such a rapidly evolving field. How do you keep abreast of 8000 new tests a month? You see another scandal every day in the press—“I sent my dog’s DNA, and they thought it was me,” “I got a kit, there was already spit in it”—it’s the Wild West. And so they’re putting up barriers.
As an expert nationwide genomics medical practice, it is our job to assess those tests, and help direct patients to the appropriate clinically validated test as well as help make the findings clinically actionable. That is true in the self-insured markets and in small- to medium-sized companies. It’s also true in Medicare and Medicaid, where we can help reduce costs by assessing and screening at-risk patients early, as well as by selecting the right treatments for the 20 percent of Americans taking five or more drugs. In fact, several studies have shown that patients who know they have a hereditary risk are significantly more likely to follow clinical screening guidelines (to get a colonoscopy, for example) as well as to be more likely to take their medication.
So, I see Genome Medical as helping payors in the same way we will be helping providers and patients.
Genetics used to be the last resort—if you don’t know what an illness is, or if you don’t know how to treat. We’ve moved beyond that. But how to do that in a way that is responsible, and educational, is a big challenge for everybody. It’s an opportunity that is ours to take.
If you’d like to schedule an appointment to speak to a genetic counselor, get started here.
If you have questions about the services Genome Medical provides, visit GenomeMedical.com or call us at (877) 688-0992.