ReFocus2017 Insurtech Genie is Out of the Bottle


At the 11th annual global ReFocus2017 Conference, a panel of senior-level life insurance and reinsurance executives, jointly sponsored by the American Council of Life Insurers and the Society of Actuaries, discussed the impact of genetic and genomic testing on life insurance underwriting.


After Day 1 where conference attendees were treated to a keynote speaker Dr. J. Craig Venter who spoke on Human Genomics and the Future of Medicine, the panel discussed the impact of genetic and genomic testing on life insurance underwriting declaring: The Genie is Out of the Bottle.

Venter is co-founder and Executive Chairman of Human Longevity, Inc., and has been working to decode death.  A recent Forbes article chronicled the recent efforts of Venter and Human Longevity, Inc. and he is a favorite among insurance executives in discussing the implications of genomics to the longevity industry. Venter insists that genomics is quickly becoming completely integrated into the system of medicine, healthcare, and predictive analytics.

There was a clear acknowledgment among the panelists that included industry powerhouses from RGA Reinsurance, Partner Re and Swiss Re that genomic testing, or at least aspects of the science are sure to make their way into the industry. It is a certainty that advances in genomic testing will have transformative and disruptive impacts on the industry. The landscape is changing rapidly and companies are jockeying to find their way through a complex landscape.

I always like to point out an important distinction between epigenetic and genetic testing that is often blurred. The key distinction is epigenetic biomarkers change overtime and reflect the environmental experience of the individual – really no different than traditional medical evidenced based underwriting that seeks to determine the overall health and wellness of an individual’s longevity. Genetic testing focuses on the actual DNA code, code that does not ever change – a defective gene is always a defective gene. Epigenetic test how an individual’s DNA is actually expressed.

The genetic revolution will not wait around for the industry to decide, and smart business built around these new technologies will bring valuable products and services to consumers.

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