Lisa Alderson is the Co-Founder and CEO of Genome Medical, Inc., a digital health company bringing genetics to everyday life. Through its nationwide genomics telehealth service, Genome Medical provides expert genetic healthcare for individuals and their families to improve health and well being. Prior, Ms. Alderson served as the Chief Commercial Officer and Chief Strategy Officer of Invitae (NYSE: NVTA), a rapidly growing genetic information company. She was also the former CEO and president of CrossLoop Inc., a marketplace for technical services (acquired by Nasdaq: AVG). Prior to that, she was part of the start-up team at Genomic Health Inc. (Nasdaq: GHDX), president of Cinema Circle Inc., (acquired by Nasdaq: GAIA) and the former manager of strategic planning at The Walt Disney Co. Read her full bio.

Interview with Lisa Alderson of Genome Medical

Q: Tell us a little bit about Genome Medical. What market need is Genome Medical addressing and how?

A: Genome Medical is a telegenomics company that is bridging the gap between available, genetic expertise and the clinical application of genomics. We enable physicians and patients to navigate the rapidly evolving field of genomics to improve health, diagnose and prevent disease, and lower the cost of care.

The market need for what Genome Medical offers is vast. Genomics is one of the most exciting advancements in healthcare today. It holds tremendous promise for the improved well-being of all through more personalized treatment plans. At the same time, there is a nationwide shortage of genetic experts that makes it impossible for a critical mass of consumers and providers to take full advantage of genetic information.

Our collaborative medical group fills the care gap present today by helping providers harness the power of genomics and that includes understanding which patients would benefit from testing, what tests to order, and how to interpret and integrate the resulting information into ongoing clinical care. We also offer broad based genetic wellness assessment and screening programs for health systems and employer organizations to provide scalable, efficient, genome-enabled health care.

Q: Do you work with and support a very specific set of genetic tests and the interpretation of the data generated through them, or can anybody use your services to seek interpretation and understanding of any genetic information they have about themselves?

A: Anybody can use our services. With more than 600 labs on the market providing more 70,000 different tests, there’s a high degree of complexity and variability in the market. Genome Medical is the leading genetic navigator service to identify the right test for the right patient. We enable access to the latest advancements in genomics from the highest quality labs and then guide individuals on their lifelong genomic journey.

To help understand the customer journey, individuals come to us directly or they are referred to us by their physician. We then assess whether a genetic test would help identify a potential health risk or help to diagnose or treat a condition. We determine whether testing may be covered by insurance. We then recommend and order testing and guide the individual as well as any treating physicians on how to incorporate the results into ongoing clinical care. We also help assess the results of testing that has already been done and develop personalized care plans based on these results.

Q: One of the biggest challenges in the health care sector is the lack of genetic experts. Genome Medical must face the same challenge, so how do you scale your business while addressing this specific lack? How can we as a community help address this lack, or - in other words - what needs to change in order for us to successfully overcome this challenge?

A: One of the biggest challenges in healthcare today IS the lack of genetic experts – clinical utility for genomics is outpacing clinical expertise in the field, and hospitals and health systems are ill equipped to meet the demand. In the community setting, few hospitals have access to genetics. Most geneticists and genetic counselors are located at leading academic medical centers, which means that patients often wait weeks or even months for an appointment and they have to travel to the leading medical centers.

We are solving this challenge through telegenomics: the use of telehealth technology to bring genetics and genomics to more people. Our telegenomics platform makes our genetic experts available to individuals and providers across all 50 states. They are available on-demand, for video visits. Next day appointments are available, including evening and weekend hours from the comfort of the individual’s home.

Additionally, we are building a technology enabled service delivery platform for more efficient care. We expect this to result in 5-10X increase in efficiency relative to the status quo.

As a community, we can continue to raise awareness of the lack of genetic expertise nationwide. We should make it a priority to educate established and up-and-coming healthcare professionals on the value of genomics and the rich future in which genetic information is used proactively to offset disease risk and personalize treatment plans for the individual patient.

Q: Currently most of the genetic experts are at academic institutions. How do we provide access to genetic expertise for the healthcare systems and for the community hospitals, or for a set of physicians?

A: This is exactly why we have expanded our services over the past year to include provider-to-provider consultations and other provider-directed genomics offerings. Our genetic specialists are available on-demand to help providers with everything from reviewing a patient case and assessing whether a patient needs genetic testing, to getting the right test ordered, to giving that provider a clinical care plan they can use to sit down with the patient, review their results and decide on the best course of action.

The reality is that we can’t expect general practitioners, or even specialists, to know what to make of all of this genetic information – which continues to expand, along with our understanding of it, every day! It’s an enormous amount of data to keep up with – but having access to Genome Medical, specialists in the field of genomic medicine, makes it easier for providers to integrate genomics into everyday care.

Q: Access to genetic experts is one aspect only: what about the primary care doctor? How should we go about educating her or him?

A: Primary care physicians are a critical audience and perhaps the ultimate place the genomics revolution can be fully realized. I believe that in the future, getting your whole genome sequenced will become standard practice, and your genetic make-up will become a blueprint for healthcare decision-making throughout your entire life. PCPs are going to have to be informed and involved — to shepherd in this new era and use genetic information to guide diagnosis and treatment decisions.

My hope is that PCPs will embrace this new field of medicine – genomic medicine – and work alongside genetic experts to make genetic information the new vital sign. This requires an aptitude at the physician level for learning and discovery, and at the administrative/C-suite level in hospitals for prioritizing and investing in these services. We’re already seeing innovative providers like Geisinger Health System and Renown Health come on-board and say hey, we’re making this a part of how we deliver care, routinely. So, the wave is coming…

Q: You do have some programs established with employer organizations, such as genetic wellness and genetic assessment, and in this context you do some employer population analysis. What are the benefits and risks (if any) for individuals joining those programs? Can you provide an example?

A: Genome Medical’s offering has benefits for both the employer and employees. We create a customized genetic health program for employees that 1) provides education and access to genetic specialists, 2) assesses which employees could benefit from genetic testing 3) selects the right test for each employee and 4) interprets the results and folds them into a personalized care plan. The employer, in turn, gets to provide a leading health benefit that includes access to “standard-of-care” genetics, or genetics that national guidelines would suggest should be offered by healthcare providers, but in many cases, are not. Our goal ultimately is to identify subgroups of employees that are at high risk for medically actionable conditions, where earlier detection and intervention can improve outcomes and lower the employer’s overall medical costs.

These genetic health programs make a real impact on people’s lives. As one example: an employee participant decided to proceed with proactive health genetic testing when it was offered by his company through Genome Medical. The test result indicated he was a carrier for the genetic variant associated with hereditary hemochromatosis – a disease that causes the body to absorb excessive levels of iron. This finding led to both a family conversation that uncovered a family history of the disease and a medical examination that revealed dangerously high levels of iron in his body. He was able to start treatment and modify his diet to manage his disease – which might never have been caught without genetic testing.

Q: How will genome related medicine change in the near and far future? What are some challenges that need to be overcome?

A: Great question. We think it’s going to change a lot – and faster than anyone thinks. For starters, consumer testing kits have just taken off – more than 12 million people have been tested by the consumer genetic testing companies alone (and some people say the actual number is closer to 20 million). This means that many consumers are going into the doctor’s office and saying, hey, I got this result back, what does it mean? This consumer demand is critical to the acceleration of genomic medicine in the clinical setting, because providers need to be a part of any conversation involving genetic risk and potential changes in treatment.

Further – clinical testing companies are advancing their understanding of genetic variants, and building the most comprehensive tests to-date. And new data seems to be published every day that underscores the value of having genetic testing done early, particularly when there’s a family history of disease. For example, a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology demonstrates that current clinical guidelines for genetic testing of breast cancer patients is out of date, and that universal screening for breast cancer patients may be the more appropriate guideline.

In short – more consumers desire genetic testing, clinical-grade genetic testing is becoming more advanced, and the field is beginning to recognize the need for more, broad-scale proactive screening. It’s not hard to see that in the next five, 10, 15 years – everyone will begin to be touched by genetic testing, and it will be a conversation you have with your primary care provider. This means we need to plan for increased support for frontline clinicians and increased access to genetic specialists when needed.

One major challenge we must overcome is reimbursement. Clinical care guidelines continue to lag behind clinical utility and application of genomics, and commercial insurers base their decisions on what tests and services they cover based on these guidelines. We need to take a long, hard look at the guidelines, update them, and then get coverage to the levels needed to take advantage of this treasure trove of information and reduce future unnecessary medical costs over the long-term.

Q: In what timeframe do you see genomic medicine in a medically responsible and scalable way established itself broadly in the clinic? What role does technology play?

A: In the next five to 10 years, conservatively, I think we’ll see genomic medicine become a much bigger part of clinical care. Technology will play a critical role in helping to scale genetic expertise and develop more efficient care delivery models. By harnessing large data sets of genomic information, we can continue to advance our understanding of the whole genome, variants that are causative of disease, and how to best mitigate associated risks. Telehealth and artificial intelligence – these technologies are paramount to the field’s success, now and in the future.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to share with the PMWC audience?

A: Genomics is exciting – not scary. It’s an opportunity to take control of one’s health, and be more proactive, less reactive. The majority of healthcare today is reactive – based on a symptom, or symptoms, here’s a diagnosis, and now let’s treat something that’s already there. Genomics gives us the power to get in front of disease before it happens, or treat a condition with a medicine that is ideally matched to one’s DNA. Genomics gives us an incredibly powerful new tool in our healthcare arsenal – maybe the MOST powerful. Let’s use it!

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Q: The Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded recently to James Allison and Tasuku Honjo for their work on unleashing the body’s immune system to attack cancer, a breakthrough that has led to an entirely new class of drugs and brought lasting remissions to many patients who had run out of options. The Nobel committee hailed their accomplishments as establishing “an entirely new principle for cancer therapy.” What is your first-hand experience the impact that those new drugs had on patients?

A: For decades cancer was viewed as solely a cell-autonomous condition.

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Interview with Gini Deshpande of NuMedii

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Interview with Minnie Sarwal of UCSF

Q: Genomic medicine is entering more hospitals and bringing with it non-invasive technology that can be used to better target and treat diseases. What are some key milestones that contributed to this trend?

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Interview with Shidong Jia of Predicine

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Interview with Iya Khalil of GNS Healthcare

Q: Artificial intelligence (AI) techniques have sent vast waves across healthcare, even fueling an active discussion of whether AI doctors will eventually replace human physicians in the future. Do you believe that human physicians will be replaced by machines in the foreseeable future? What are your thoughts?

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Interview with Ilya Michael Rachman of Immix Biopharma Inc.

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Interview with Dominic Eisinger of Myriad RBM

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A: Next generation immunotherapies include CAR-Ts, TCRs, cancer vaccines, ADCs, bi-specific antibodies, and checkpoint inhibitors.

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Interview with Lisa Alderson of Genome Medical

Q: Tell us a little bit about Genome Medical. What market need is Genome Medical addressing and how?

A: Genome Medical is a telegenomics company that is bridging the gap between available, genetic expertise and the clinical application of genomics.

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Interview with Nasir Bhanpuri of Virta Health

Q: What need is Virta Health addressing?

A: Virta Health delivers an evidence-based treatment to safely and sustainably reverse type 2 diabetes without the use of medications or surgery. In the U.S. alone, type 2 diabetes and prediabetes affects 115 million people, and the economic burden is well-over $300 billion and growing.

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Johns Hopkins
University Of Michigan

The Precision Medicine World Conference (PMWC), in its 16th installment, will take place in the Santa Clara Convention Center (Silicon Valley) on January 20-23, 2019. The program will traverse innovative technologies, thriving initiatives, and clinical case studies that enable the translation of precision medicine into direct improvements in health care. Conference attendees will have an opportunity to learn first-hand about the latest developments and advancements in precision medicine and cutting-edge new strategies and solutions that are changing how patients are treated.

Agenda highlights:

  • Five tracks will showcase sessions on the latest advancements in precision medicine which include, but are not limited to:
    • AI & Data Science Showcase
    • Clinical & Research Tools Showcase
    • Clinical Dx Showcase
    • Creating Clinical Value with Liquid Biopsy ctDNA, etc.
    • Digital Health/Health and Wellness
    • Digital Phenotyping
    • Diversity in Precision Medicine
    • Drug Development (PPPs)
    • Early Days of Life Sequencing
    • Emerging Technologies in PM
    • Emerging Therapeutic Showcase
    • FDA Efforts to Accelerate PM
    • Gene Editing
    • Genomic Profiling Showcase
    • Immunotherapy Sessions & Showcase
    • Implementation into Health Care Delivery
    • Large Scale Bio-data Resources to Support Drug Development (PPPs)
    • Microbial Profiling Showcase
    • Microbiome
    • Neoantigens
    • Next-Gen. Workforce of PM
    • Non-Clinical Services Showcase
    • Pharmacogenomics
    • Point-of Care Dx Platform
    • Precision Public Health
    • Rare Disease Diagnosis
    • Resilience
    • Robust Clinical Decision Support Tools
    • Wellness and Aging Showcase

Agenda highlights:

    • Five tracks will showcase sessions on the latest advancements in precision medicine which include, but are not limited to:
      • AI & Data Science Showcase
      • Clinical & Research Tools Showcase
      • Clinical Dx Showcase
      • Creating Clinical Value with Liquid Biopsy ctDNA, etc.
      • Digital Health/Health and Wellness
      • Digital Phenotyping
      • Diversity in Precision Medicine
      • Drug Development (PPPs)
      • Early Days of Life Sequencing
      • Emerging Technologies in PM
      • Emerging Therapeutic Showcase
      • FDA Efforts to Accelerate PM
      • Gene Editing / CRISPR
      • Genomic Profiling Showcase
      • Immunotherapy Sessions & Showcase
      • Implementation into Health Care Delivery
      • Large Scale Bio-data Resources to Support Drug Development (PPPs)
      • Microbial Profiling Showcase
      • Microbiome
      • Neoantigens
      • Next-Gen. Workforce of PM
      • Non-Clinical Services Showcase
      • Pharmacogenomics
      • Point-of Care Dx Platform
      • Precision Public Health
      • Rare Disease Diagnosis
      • Resilience
      • Robust Clinical Decision Support Tools
      • Wellness and Aging Showcase
  • Luminary and Pioneer Awards, honoring individuals who contributed, and continue to contribute, to the field of Precision Medicine
  • 2000+ multidisciplinary attendees, from across the entire spectrum of healthcare, representing different types of companies, technologies, and medical centers with leadership roles in precision medicine
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