Nearly five months after 23andMe dropped the price of its genome scan service from $1000 to $400, personal genomics competitor Navigenics has made its own foray into the lower-cost genetic testing market.
Navigenics has always been the most expensive of the three mainstream genome-scan companies, despite offering essentially the same product as competitors 23andMe and deCODEme: a genome scan examining between 500,000 and a million sites of common genetic variation, known as SNPs. While its competitors charge a one-off fee of $400 (23andMe) or $1,000 (deCODEme), Navigenics whacks its customers with a hefty $2,500 up-front fee plus a $250 annual subscription for its flagship product, Health Compass.
It seems likely that Navigenics’ higher fees are part of its overall strategy to paint itself as the more serious and respectable member of the personal genomics industry, and to appeal to the kind of well-paid executive customer who sees higher prices as a sure sign of quality. While Navigenics does offer a genetic counselling service that undoubtedly increases its running costs, its hard to justify the extra expense on the grounds of clinical value: in essence, Navigenics provides you with less information than its competitors (because it doesn’t offer ancestry or non-disease gene testing), and the health impact of most common genetic variants is small regardless of which company you choose.
Essentially, to buy the Navigenics service, you have to be convinced that talking on the phone to Navigenics’ pet counsellors will give you $2,000 worth of value that you couldn’t gain from the detailed online information provided by 23andMe or deCODEme – and then there’s the annual $250 subscription fee on top of that.
Now, on its corporate blog the Navigator, the company announces the launch of a new lower-budget product, Annual Insight:
Navigenics’ Annual Insight service retails for $499 and analyzes an
individual’s genetic predisposition for ten common health conditions
(nine each for men and women), including breast cancer, prostate
cancer, colon cancer and heart disease. The service will be available
to consumers through participating health care providers or directly
from the Navigenics website with genetic counselor support.
In other words, they’re not following 23andMe’s lead in the sense of dropping the cost of their flagship genome scan product, which remains as laughably over-priced as ever. Instead, they’re offering a stripped-down version of their test, targeting common variants associated with just ten diseases, apparently using targeted genotyping assays rather than a genome-wide SNP chip scan.
Why is it called Annual Insight, I hear you ask? Well, that’s because it comes with a time limit – the Navigenics web-site says your $500 buys you “[a]ccess to your genetic test results for an entire year”. Wow, guys, you get to look at a tiny fraction of your own genome for an entire year before your access gets revoked! You also get a whole hour of phone conversation with Navigenics’ genetic counsellors, which should be more than enough time for them to explain to you that their results have no clinical implications (and indeed the four conditions listed above are diseases where common genetic variants typically have very low predictive power).
Moreover, using targeted genotyping means that you can’t simply check your results whenever a new region of the genome is associated with one of these diseases (as you can, in many cases, if you have genome scan data) – instead, you’d have to pay to get another test done. Alternatively, you could take advantage of Navigenics’ offer to “upgrade to the comprehensive Navigenics Health Compass package” – yay!
I just don’t understand how anyone could possibly see this as an attractive alternative to 23andMe’s ($100 cheaper) full genome scan – but I suppose it will be interesting to see what proportion of their target audience disagrees with me.