Podcast #11: Healthcare’s Personalized Future with Spencer Wells
Advisor: Simon Erickson
Health care is undergoing a revolution. A recent focus on genomics is allowing doctors to more objectively diagnose patients and more proactively keep large populations of people healthy. Genomics technology has entered the consumer space too, with direct-to-consumer kits like 23andme and Ancestry.com providing people with insights about their genome and heritage.
Spencer Wells was instrumental in developing many of these trends. As an Explorer-in-Residence at National Geographic, he was an early innovator of using genographic kits — studying DNA from people all across the world to map out the migrations of mankind’s earliest ancestors. Spencer went on to found a company called Insitome, which also gives consumers insight about their genome and their heritage.
But there are even bigger movements underway, as genomics moves into the healthcare industry. Several genes are predictive of hereditary disorders, which are medically-actionable for doctors. Drugmakers are interested in using genomics to characterize specific diseases, so they can prescribe (very expensive) personalized medicines as a treatment or a cure. And 2018’s “Babies Born” email from He Jianqui of China has unleashed Pandora’s Box of an ethical debate on how gene editing could and should be used on humans.
An a geneticist, an anthropologist, an author, and an entrepreneur, Spencer has an extremely informed opinion on what’s in store for the future of healthcare.
In an exclusive interview with 7investing, Spencer describes the permanently changes that have taken place in the Direct-to-Consumer genomics industry and explains how genomics is now catching on with hospitals. He shares his thoughts about the technology behind DNA sequencing, the personalized medicine movement in pharmaceuticals, and the importance of the ethical debate in shaping the future for gene editing.
Spencer also describes what the coming changes could mean for genomic sequencing leader Illumina, as well as for international drugmakers like Roche.
And as a lifelong fan of blues music, Spencer shares some of his favorite musicians and the best live concerts he’s ever attended.
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Publicly-traded companies mentioned in this podcast include: $ILMN, $PACB, and $RHHBY. The 7investing team or its guests may have active positions in one of more of these companies.
This podcast was originally recorded on May 29, 2020 and was first published on June 2, 2020.