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From Computer Science to Genetic Testing

Othman Laraki, the CEO and co-founder of Color Genomics, tells Barron's Penta that what his firm is doing differs from that of other genetic testing companies in that it is not following the direct-to-consumer model and offers a clinical product. As Penta notes, Color currently offers a saliva-based test of genetic variants linked to risk of cancers like breast, colon, and pancreatic cancer, as well as to heart disease and medication response.

Laraki tells Penta that he started out in computer science and, after attending Stanford University, he worked at Google and then launched a startup that then got acquired by Twitter. However, he notes he was influenced by the death of his grandmother from breast cancer and his mother's two-time survival of breast cancer. Laraki adds that one of his co-founders has a genetic sequencing background and brings that expertise.

"The question that we are really interested in is, are we at the point now where genomics shifts from being something that is used only in circumstances where people have had cancer multiple times, then you finally go and use it because it's so expensive and onerous, to being something that you don't think twice about?" Laraki says. He adds that in the future, he sees genetic testing being more integrated into healthcare.