What Is Color Genomics?

Updated February 20, 2019

This article was scientifically reviewed by YourDNA

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In 2017, the Wall Street Journal listed Color Genomics as one of its “Top 25 Tech Companies to Watch,” and in the two years since (and six years since the company’s founding), the DNA testing tech company has grown drastically, creating research partnerships with hospitals, research companies, and the United States’ own National Institutes of Health.

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Disclaimer: Before You Read

It is important to know that your genes are not your destiny. There are various environmental and genetic factors working together to shape you. No matter your genetic makeup, maintain ideal blood pressure and glucose levels, avoid harmful alcohol intake, exercise regularly, get regular sleep. And for goodness sake, don't smoke.

Genetics is a quickly changing topic.

But what makes this genetics testing company different from other companies in the growing genetics field? Color Genomics, like few competitors, is heavily focused on accessible DNA testing products as well as expanding the field of genetics research.

That means that many of its products and initiatives are focused on expanding the quickly crowding field of genetics products geared towards everyone, not just patients who are in high-risk health situations.

And its products, unlike those from other DNA testing companies, can be used in multiple ways — either at-home without the input from your primary health care provider, or with the help of your doctor, who can break down the test results and help you understand them.

What Is The History Of Color Genomics?

Originally founded in 2013 as Color Global, Inc., Color Genomics has grown as a genetic testing company that offers DNA testing to consumers.

What began as a small genetics start-up has morphed into a well-networked and advised genomics company focused on expanding the field of cancer and health research through genetic testing.

Color Genomic’s mission is to “democratize access to high-quality genetic information,” meaning that its founding principals were about giving everyday people access to their genetic information in a way that allows them to make the best health choices possible, without the burden of the heavy expense of genetic testing or dealing with insurance companies.

That mission has allowed Color Genomics to market its main product — the Color test — as a tool that can be ordered by a doctor and potentially covered by insurance, or purchased online and “ordered” through one of the company’s affiliated physicians for patients who don’t want to include their primary health care provider in the test.

According to Fortune, a primary goal of Color Genomics is diversifying research into DNA of all ethnic groups; because much of the research into genetic testing is done through samples submitted by Caucasian patients, the need to create a more inclusive genetics database is important. Doing so would allow genetic scientists to better understand the DNA of people across the globe and allow for advancements in treatments based on genetics.

With a focus on financial and medical access, Color Genomics attracted many prominent investors, including co-founders of Paypal, Yahoo, and Dropbox, as well as executive leadership from Twitter, Cisco, and even Apple CEO Steve Job’s widow, Laurene Powell Jobs. The company has raised millions of dollars in multiple stages of investment; as of 2017, the company brought its investor financing to as high as $150 million.

Color Genomic’s testing services also provide a provide a wealth of information about hereditary health conditions, such as cancer, high cholesterol, and a variety of heart conditions. But, its tests also have everyday uses — such as helping you understand how your body may react to certain medications based on your genetic make up, health history, body size, and other medications you may be taking.

In addition to providing test results to Color kit users, Color Genomics uses test results (with test taker’s permission) in further genetics and disease research, helping to broaden the understanding of the relationship between genetics and disease.

Who Is Color Genomics?

Color Genomics carries a strong board of advisors and co-founders with ample experience.

Co-founder Elad Gil is a former cancer researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He is also a serial entrepreneur who has invested in and advised companies such as Airbnb, Pinterest, and Square, and is a former vice president of corporate strategy at Twitter.

The remaining co-founders are Nish Bhat, Othman Laraki, and Taylor Sittler. Bhat Laraki holds the title of Color founding engineer. Laraki is the company’s current CEO, and is a former employee of online megacompanies Twitter and Google.

Sittler is a doctor who specializes in pathology, who combined his interests in medicine and entrepreneurship to help launch Color Genomics.

Company advisors include Mary-Claire King, the researcher credited with discovering the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes related to breast cancer, as well as researchers from universities and laboratory testing companies.

The current CEO and co-founder, Othman Laraki, told Penta magazine in October 2018 that his drive to create health and wellness DNA solutions through Color Genomics came from a personal place, namely his family’s struggle with cancer:

“What really led to my work here is that my grandmother passed away from breast cancer. My mother survived it twice. I later found out that I’m also a carrier as well. So that’s given me a lot of interest in this space,” Laraki said.

The interest turned into a full-fledged project in 2013 when Laraki teamed up with a fellow co-founder of Color Genomics whose background in genome sequencing and genetics offer insight.

According to Laraki, the company hopes to expand its products to being something used for health prevention, as opposed to being used after a health condition has occurred to better understand the medical situation condition and the best course of treatment. Laraki also believed that the company’s research into the role genetics plays in medication reactions is also another avenue for the company to pursue:

“In the future, genetic testing is just going to be incorporated into how we do healthcare. Like, your pharmacy should never be able to give you a medication to which you will have an adverse reaction. That’s a solvable problem,” Laraki told Penta magazine.

What Does Color Genomics Do?

Color Genomics considers itself different from other DNA test kit companies, such as Vitagene, Helix, and 23andMe, mostly because its products are not directly marketed to consumers.

Color Genomics also puts heavy emphasis on providing accessibility to genetic testing without the need to involve insurance companies, though it does encourage working with your health care professional to understand your personal genetic code and its impact on your health before a potential health issue.

While Color Genomics offers a DNA testing product that can be taken at home — similar to other health risk DNA tests that are used at home and submitted by mail — it has primarily moved into the market of working with physician’s offices, hospitals, and health care practices.

In partnerships with these health care organizations, Color Genomics is working to expand the accessibility of DNA and genetic testing to a larger population of people regardless of their ability to have insurance cover the test, or based on needing their doctor’s approval or suggestion to move forward with DNA testing.

While Color’s genetic tests are still for purchase, as they were initially, in recent years the company has moved towards tests that are provided through doctor’s offices and hospitals.

According to the company, Color Genomic’s tests for genetic cancer are drastically less expensive than alternative tests, primarily those offered at doctor’s offices and laboratories. Physicians can order this less-expensive test for their patients, helping to speed up the testing process with a dedication to accuracy.

The use of Color Genomic’s namesake Color genetics test is reported to reduce the cost of DNA testing — Color Genomics says its Color test is one-tenth of the average price of traditional genetic cancer testing.

In addition, Color Genomic’s tests are also focused on testing for multiple health conditions, as opposed to just cancer, heart disease, or a solitary health issue, in an effort to give test users the most information possible with one genetic test. The company believes that consolidating multiple tests into one kit allows users to gain the most information possible instead of being forced to choose one type of test at a time, without having to worry about the cost.

Color Genomic’s tests require a simple saliva sample, which laboratory researchers can analyze and use to determine the presence of 30 genetic mutations such as the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes (which are linked to the development of breast cancer). Color Genomic’s tests also identify mutations that heighten the risk of melanoma, prostate, colon, uterine, pancreatic, ovarian, and stomach cancers.

In early 2019, the company announced a partnership with NorthShore University HealthSystem, with the goal to offer genetic test kits to more than 10,000 patients. Unlike other genetic tests offered through hospitals and doctor’s offices, which are only administered to high-risk patients who may have a hereditary health condition, Color Genomics is working to ensure that everyone can use their unique DNA information to create, more informed better health and lifestyle choices.

Overall, the company hopes to encourage the medical field to use genetic information throughout the patient-care process, as opposed to only in high-risk health situations.

The company also has partnerships with other health organizations, including Illumina, Inc. — a biotech company that manufactures and sells health products that improve the gene sequencing and genotyping process for research centers, university and academic research programs, and pharmaceutical companies.

In September of 2018, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded partnership funding to Color Genomics as part of its “All Of Us” research program. The federal funding was set to specifically be used in establishing three genome centers throughout the United States to speed up the sequencing of DNA in an effort to make breakthroughs in cancer and genetic disease research.

The “All Of Us” program has a goal to partner with at least 1 million people across the country to build a biomedical database that is diverse and inclusive of all kinds of DNA, helping researchers better understand how biology, environment, and other factors can influence the health of people across the globe.

What Products And Services Does Color Genomics Offer?

Color Genomics offers one main product along with one add-on package that offers further DNA analysis.

The company’s primary test, called Color, explores 30 genes related to hereditary cancer that may increase your risk of being diagnosed with a form of cancer. The Color kit also comes with what the company calls “clinical-grade” reports that help you and your doctor understand the test’s results and put them to work in terms of managing your health risks.

Color’s results also come with the aid of a genetic counselor, who is on hand to help you understand your results, what they mean for your health, and how you can use the information moving forward.

The Color test can be ordered by your doctor or health care provider, but is also available on the Color Genomic’s website, or third-party websites such as Amazon. It can be purchased for $199.

Color Genome’s flagship test works a little differently than other genetics testing kits that can be purchased online. Many people who order at-home DNA testing kits that analyze your risk for hereditary cancers and other health concerns worry that the results will be difficult and uncomfortable to read, though many reviewers of the Color test say that the results are presented in a way that is easy to understand.

In addition, being contacted by a genetic counselor makes the results easier to understand in situations a gene mutation related to cancer — such as BRCA genes — are identified.

Color’s additional product, Color Extended, allows test kit users to purchase additional testing for $50 upfront or $100 at a later time. This additional testing provides information about heart health and how your body may respond to medications.

Color Genomic’s test results are returned within three to four weeks after arriving at the company’s laboratory. Results are sent to the test taker, along with their health care provider (if they choose to share this information).

In addition, Color offers further, discounted testing based on your results. For test takers who receive a positive identification for a cancer-related gene mutation, Color extends a discounted test of $50 to their parents, siblings, and adult children through its Family Testing Program.

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