Ancestry Chief Scientific Officer Catherine Ball Embraces The Bigger Picture

Global leader in consumer genomics, Ancestry announced at the HLTH conference in Las Vegas that it’s making a $1 million educational grant to evidence-based clinical resource and Wolters Kluwer company, UpToDate. The grant will go towards facilitating independently generated information for healthcare providers, helping them interpret and act on the results from genetic testing on patients.

Founded in 1992, UpToDate offers 1.7 million doctors evidence-based medical information on 11,600 topics across 25 specialties. Ancestry's new focus has recently led them to work with health providers and its funding of UpToDate looks to be part of its long-term commitment to partnering with healthcare stakeholders in order to improve and develop preventative measures.

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Last year, chief scientific officer, Catherine Ball iterated that this reflects not just the company's ethos, but consumers demands. “They've been asking: 'You have my DNA test. Tell me, what else do you know?'" she says. "There's been a lot of interest in health. People are interested in what genetics can say about their health.”

The grant coincides with the launch of AncestryHealth, which offers comprehensive genetic tests designed to alert users to any hereditary or predisposed health conditions. While the Food and Drug Administration hasn’t reviewed nor approved the tests which start at $149, an independent team of physicians is tasked with ordering them for customers.

Though, an article published in the Journal of Personalized Medicine remarked that relevant genetic knowledge among healthcare providers is falling short of consumer enthusiasm for genetic screens.

Nevertheless, Ball insists that people get tested and take these results to their primary care physicians. "One of the things that's really important about the way we envision this product and our relationship with our customers is that we want not to just give people a long laundry list of genetic reports and risks and say 'good luck to you.’ We want to be very clear, the number one thing, if you do nothing else, is print this out [and] take it to your physician.”

So where does UpToDate fit in all of this?

Chief medical officer of Clinical Effectiveness at Wolters Kluwer, Peter Bonis, MD posits that Ancestry and UpToDate share a similar vision. “This educational grant enables UpToDate to determine and develop new content with editorial independence, which remains a critical component of our editorial policy,” Bonis says.