Genomics, Precision Medicine,
and a New Era in Insurance
From left: Dan Zimmerman, M.D., Vice President and Medical Director, Global Underwriting; Dave Rengachary, M.D., Senior Vice President, Chief Medical Director, U.S. Mortality Markets.
Genomics, the study of an individual’s DNA sequence (genome), has the potential to transform modern medicine. It underpins a wider movement known as precision medicine, which seeks to deliver individualized medical care based on a patient’s genes, lifestyle, and environment.
Genomics can help predict an individual’s disease risk, improve diagnosis and prognostication, and optimize treatment. Pharmacogenomics, for example, uses genetic information to prescribe the right drug, at the right dose, at the right time to maximize benefits and limit side effects. Other targeted therapies may offer additional benefits. In fact, CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Inter-Spaced Palindromic Repeats) gene-editing technology could potentially cure some diseases that have a genetic basis.
Number of grants funded by Longer Life Foundation as of December 31, 2016
For life and health insurers, the implications are clearly profound. In some markets, carriers are exploring the use of genetic testing in employee group wellness and prescription drug programs. Moving forward, precision medicine could help reduce claims and aid in the development of targeted insurance products, among other applications.
RGA’s medical staff of 35 physicians (as of December 31, 2016) is well positioned to lead the industry forward. Throughout 2016, RGA doctors presented on genetics, precision medicine, and pharmacogenomics at multiple industry events. They also counseled clients who expressed interest in incorporating genetic testing into product offerings.
Ongoing research is required to understand how precision medicine may be used to improve public health and better serve insurance customers. RGA is conducting internal studies on genetic testing and supporting investigations with academic partners. The Longer Life Foundation (LLF) has also funded studies pertaining to the use of genetics to improve patient care. The LLF is a not-for-profit partnership between RGA and the Washington University School of Medicine that supports research to enhance longevity and promote healthier lives. Learn more at longerlife.org.