Most life science and genomics firm have yet to treat genomic sequencing as a benefit to be given to employees. Bio-IT World says it has been on the hunt for those firms that are taking what it calls the "logical" step of making sequencing and clinical interpretation as much a benefit as vacation days or a retirement plan.
"The seemingly obvious solution of allowing employees with diagnoses or risks of cancer or other rare diseases the benefit of having their genomes sequenced and clinically interpreted on the company dime is still relatively nascent," Bio-IT World says. "Most genomics and other life science organizations that we asked — for-profit and not-for-profit alike — either denied having such a program or didn't reply to our inquiries…. A few others are only beginning to consider it."
Illumina is probably the market leader in this respect. It set up an employee sequencing program three years ago, Bio-IT World says, and the details are clearly spelled out in HR documentation for the company's workers.
HudsonAlpha tells Bio-IT World it has what it calls an "Insight Genome program," a clinical sequencing and interpretation program for rare genetic variants and pharmacogenomics. It's offered to employees, but not exclusively, and because it's so new (launched in June), few employees participate and they don't get a discount.
David Mittelman, a partner and division president at ESA Labs, hints to Bio-IT World that sequencing may be offered to the company's employees in the future. But he also tells the site that such a program for employees might make the most sense for companies who either build their own genome interpretation tools and need employee data to practice on, or for large companies such as GE who manage their own healthcare for employees.
But there are challenges preventing companies from offering such perks, Bio-IT World says. For example, many lack the ability to do in-house sequencing. Not all companies are like Illumina, after all.
Further, some critics say the real benefit of such programs would go to the company, not the employee. Others say that because there are still so many things we don't know about how the genome works, such sequencing isn't yet a really valuable tool for guiding a person's health decisions, Bio-IT World reports.