Genomic testing firm Helix is offering free genetic screenings in Florida

Genomic testing firm Helix is offering free genetic screenings in Florida
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The deal, which kicked off on Wednesday, is part of a $2 million research initiative providing free DNA screening for 10,000 Florida patients as part of a study on a genetic variation linked to high cholesterol and heart attacks, per The New York Times.

Total Number Of People Tested By Consumer Genetics Companies Globally

Participants who screen positive for the variation in question will be prompted to follow up with a free blood test to confirm the diagnosis, then connected with a genetic counselor and cardiologist to discuss precautionary health measures. AdventHealth hopes to one day expand the project throughout the entirety of its health system, which includes 46 hospital campuses across nine states.

Here's what it means: Helix has found its niche in a crowded genetic testing market by pursuing strategic partnerships with care providers.
Helix's partnership with AdventHealth is in line with its shift in strategy toward clinical partnerships that we've observed from the company in the last year. Helix's previous business model revolved around the long-term advantages of whole genome testing: Consumers paid a one-time fee to sequence their whole genome, then they could pay a la carte for tests developed by Helix partners.

The company's hopes for a genetic app store didn't pan out, though: Helix shut down two of its offices and laid off an undisclosed number of employees in May of this year, perGenomeWeb. Since then, the genetic testing company has pursued partnerships with providers to offer population health support, including an ongoing study with Renown Institute for Health Innovation, a nonprofit integrated healthcare network, and the Desert Research Institute.

The program, dubbed the Healthy Nevada Project, brought free and actionable genomic insights to tens of thousands of Nevadans, 40%of whom had never interacted with local medical care before but went on to complete their first medical visit within six months of testing.

The bigger picture: With a greater emphasis on clinical care than its direct-to-consumer (DTC) competitors, Helix's hybrid approach to genetic testing could drive revenue as providers search for actionable population health data.

We're bullish on genetic testing companies like Helix that are pursuing care-driven partnerships as a growth strategy. We've previously discussed why hybrid-model genetic testing firms - which combine the actionable insights of physician-ordered genetic tests with the convenience of DTC companies like 23andMe - could find success in the space, and Helix certainly fits this bill.By transitioning to more of a support role for research-driven providers, Helix is able to sidestep the costs of DTC marketing and clinical test development incurred by its competitors, while still expanding its customer base through predefined hospital networks. And the company is in a prime position to capitalize on providers' interest in population health management, which could help it push through its recent financial setbacks: Over 80% of C-level hospital executives identify population health as being "very" or "critically" important to future success, for instance.

However, rival genetic testing companies like Color Genomics are making similar moves: Color recently inked a deal with NorthShore University HealthSystem - a Chicago-based health system that currently offers its own prostate cancer risk assessment tool on Helix's platform - indicating that, despite favorable signs for Helix's short-term revenue, long-term success is far from a guarantee.

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