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Why Orig3n Won't Sell Customer Genetic Data


During an interview at HLTH, CEO Robin Smith said his company had no interest in deciding who else could see a consumer's genetic info.

There’s massive money to be made in the direct-to-consumer genetics business—and a lot of it hinges the value of the data that DNA companies curate. Orig3n offers such tests, ranging from novelties like $29 “Caffeine Tolerance” or “Superhero” tests up to more expensive and serious nutrition and wellness kits.

But that’s just Orig3n’s side hustle. The company sells those tests to “offset the burn” while it works on complex cell therapies. And it remains profitable without selling anyone’s data.

“We’ve been asked many times to sell this data, to do business deals with other organizations, but we really believe that people should be in control of their own information,” Robin Smith, CEO and co-founder of the company, told Healthcare Analytics News™ this week during a conversation at HLTH in Las Vegas, Nevada.

“We’re the only DNA company on the planet that won’t sell genetic information. We cordon that data off, it’s encrypted, we deliver the information only to the person that’s buying the product, and we pride ourselves in that,” he said.

For Smith, it’s a point of principle. Recent data breaches underscore the dangers of sharing data with other partners—he pointed to Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica fiasco as an example. “I’m very concerned about that happening in a company like ours, because genetic information is extremely personal,” the CEO said.

Although the CEO said he’d have no problem sharing his own genetic information, even if there was something embarrassing in there, he doesn’t think his testing provider should be making those decisions for others.

And besides, he added, Orig3n doesn’t have a need to do that anyway.

“We end up building a profitable business even around our $29 tests. We’ve developed our own technology, our own algorithms, our own automation, so our company owns that stack. We don’t feel pressure from a financial standpoint to have to go sell it to make ends meet,” he said. “I think it’s the right thing to do, and we keep trying to push that message and that approach.”

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