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Genetic test industry faces tough challenges with consumers, survey finds

June 17, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO – June 17, 2008 - As a spate of consumer genetic tests enter the market, a new survey finds consumers remain wary of these products, the benefits they offer, and the personal risks users may encounter. 
The Personalized Medicine and Wellness Survey conducted by Burrill & Company and ChangeWave Research from May 27 through May 30, 2008, examined participants’ current approach to nutrition, diet, exercise as well as their willingness to use personal genetic tests for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Responses were received from 550 upscale business professionals in ChangeWave’s proprietary network. An executive summary of the report is available at
“Our survey shows doctors are still the most important source of information for consumers on genetic testing,” said G. Steven Burrill, CEO of Burrill & Company. “While consumers are taking a more active role in their own healthcare, doctors remain the gatekeepers. Consumers are turning to them for guidance on genetic tests.”
The survey found that although consumers are concerned about genetic-based diseases, they are reluctant to use genetic tests that could provide early warning about devastating illnesses.Only one in five consumers said they were very likely (5 percent) or likely (15 percent) that they would get a genetic test in the next few years to measure the genetic risk for certain diseases.
A total of 35 percent of those surveyed said that they wouldn’t undergo genetic testing either because of privacy concerns (14 percent), because they wouldn’t want to know the results (5 percent) or both (16 percent).
These results come despite the fact that more than 50 percent of the respondents indicated that they are concerned about contracting cancer and/or heart disease – the nation’s two biggest causes of death.
Just 4 percent of those surveyed said they have ever had a genetic test to determine their risk for a particular disease, but among this group, two-thirds did so because it was recommended by a doctor. The finding suggests that makers of these tests might have more success penetrating the market by working through doctors rather than trying to make the case for their products directly to the consumer.
When asked with whom they’d be willing to share their genetic test result, 72 percent said a spouse or partner and 71 percent said their doctor. A total of 22 percent said they would share the results with researcher institutions for research purposes, but only a fraction of consumers would share such results with health insurance companies (3 percent), their current employer (2 percent), a life insurance company (2 percent), or a perspective employer (1 percent).  
The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), which President Bush recently signed into law, makes it illegal for employers and health insurance providers to discriminate based on a person’s genetic code. Yet only 28 percent of respondents said the passage of GINA made it significantly more likely (7 percent) or somewhat more likely (21 percent) that they would undergo genetic testing. Another 68 percent said the passage of the law would have no effect on their decision.
While consumers broadly supported provisions in GINA that prohibited health insurance providers from using genetic information to deny benefits or raise premiums on individual policies, consumers were divided over other provisions. Respondents were divided on whether health insurance companies should be permitted to ask individuals to take genetic tests that could lead to preventative therapies.
The Personalized Medicine and Wellness Survey
The survey represents the first part of a three-pronged benchmark personalized medicine and wellness study that is being undertaken by Burrill & Company. Companion surveys of physicians and industry professionals will be joined with this study for the final report, which will be available in the summer of 2008.

The survey capitalizes on Burrill’s expertise in the life sciences and ChangeWave’s proprietary network of business, technology and medical professionals. Burrill also publishes a Personalized Medicine Report and sponsors an annual Personalized Medicine meeting. The two organizations also provide custom surveys to the pharmaceutical, biotech and medical device industries.
About Burrill & Company
Burrill & Company is a San Francisco-based global leader in life sciences with activities in Venture Capital, Private Equity, Merchant Banking and Media. The Burrill family of venture capital funds has over $950 million under management and its merchant banking business is one of the industry leaders in life sciences transactions. Burrill is also the creator, sponsor and facilitator of over a dozen leading industry conferences worldwide and publishes a wide range of bio-intelligence reports.

About ChangeWave Research:
ChangeWave Research runs a proprietary network of more than 15,000 highly qualified business, technology, and medical professionals in leading companies of select industries – credentialed experts who spend their everyday lives working on the frontline of technological change. ChangeWave surveys its members on a range of business and investment research topics, collects feedback from them electronically, and converts the information into quantitative and qualitative reports. For more information, visit
Source: Burrill & Company
Contact Peter Winter, Editorial Director, Burrill & Company (415) 200-8163 or

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