Bench International

Amazon and Precision Medicine

Amazon and Precision Medicine

Insight by: Mamatha Shekar

Everything about shopping changed for me with the advancement of online shopping. As a busy working mom while also managing my kids’ sporting lives, I couldn’t squeeze in shopping during regular store hours. The advent of online shopping changed me from a non-enthusiastic in-store shopper to an avid online shopper.  With the ability to view multiple products on the same screen, I could now compare alternate options easily. In addition, online shopping aggregates user reviews in a categorized and searchable interface where could quickly browse helpful product information from other customers’ perspectives. Additionally, I could shop on my own time and was no longer limited by the store hours and it led to buying better suited products.

This process became especially useful when shopping for over-the-counter medications as it often led to faster access to symptom relieving medications. Purchasing products with high ratings with a vast number of reviews, often in the thousands, increased the probability of finding the optimal product. This reduced the previous trial and error process and shortened the length of time to arrive at the desired medication. Finally, online shopping has increased the number of sellers available to me, allowing me to find lesser known, yet effective, solutions of which I wasn’t aware and all without visiting multiple stores or pharmacies.

Now imagine if Amazon offered optional genetic testing of its shoppers and then aggregated and analyzed the genetic profile of their shoppers to identify signatures of responders and non-responders. Amazon can up their game from such engagement as they can use this method to improve their recommendation algorithm by considering the genetic similarities of their shoppers.

This kind of genetic testing and matching process is currently available for some prescription medications specifically for cancer. These genetic tests, Companion Diagnostics (CDx), enable the targeted use of such medications based on a given genetic profile leading to better clinical outcomes.  The value of companion diagnostics and targeted approaches to therapy will be further boosted by the significant public efforts focused on population genetics that are now underway in many countries. With a careful eye to issues of privacy, these efforts can be augmented by partnering with companies like Amazon, Alphabet, and others to expedite the realization of precision medicine. Such collaborations between the genomics community and big data companies and on-line suppliers have the potential to not only accelerate development of better targeted medicines but also enhance access to those medications.