In 2008, vitamin D deficiency—due in part to human’s increasing lack of direct sun exposure—was declared a pandemic. As the news spread among medical professionals, the market for vitamin D detection tests skyrocketed, growing at a compound annual rate of 76 percent between 2007 and 2010. One company, DiaSorin, positioned itself for market domination by increasing its expertise in vitamin D testing and output. By 2011, DiaSorin had achieved 47 percent worldwide market share and 51 percent of the US market. Vitamin D detection testing is an example of what we call a fast-expanding market (FEM).

FEMs are new, rapidly growing economic opportunities that fly under the radar of macroeconomic analysis. They are exciting because they offer value creation and growth potential with undefined limits. Entrepreneurs and enterprises astute enough to recognize an FEM in action can pivot or diversify their suite of products and services, and drive social change in doing so. Some FEMs are observable from a national or regional basis, while others, such as vitamin D testing, exist on a global product or industry level. In today’s technology-driven and information-rich world, more and more FEMs are emerging. One of the latest developments is the rise of personal genomics and personalized medicine—a new market where advanced technology is transforming the way doctors diagnose and treat diseases.

Personal genomics usually involves the genetic screening of individuals for high-risk genes—inherited genetic mutations that increase a person’s chance of developing a certain disease or condition, such as lupus or cancer. This knowledge may be helpful to both doctors and patients, as detecting a certain disease risk creates greater opportunities for prevention. To date, molecular diagnostics (the study of individual genetic codes) are available for an estimated 2,500 conditions. Other personal genomics services include carrier screening and genetic screening of embryos, which can assist in family planning by determining the probability of a child being born with a certain disease.

Given such promising benefits, the genomics market has grown quickly. In 2013, the global genomics market was valued at $11.1 billion. With an estimated compound annual growth rate of 10.3 percent, the global market for genomics is expected to reach $22.1 billion by 2020. In healthcare, data from 2006 to 2009 indicated that the market spent upwards of $4 billion on genetic testing and molecular diagnostics in the US alone, and grew an encouraging 25 percent, to $5 billion, in 2010. According to UnitedHealth, projections for healthcare-based personal genomics are estimated to be as high as $25 billion by 2020.

Several factors are driving this growth, including falling costs and rising demand. In 2004, for example, it cost $300 million to sequence a human genome; today, it costs less than $3,000, with some estimates forecasting a cost of less than $1,000 per sequence by the end of 2015.

While commercial demand for genomics consumables is far greater than direct-to-consumer demand, public interest in learning about personal genomics is a sign of things to come. As an example, one of the largest drivers of consumer demand for genetic screening has been coined “the Jolie effect”; after the actress Angelina Jolie revealed in 2013 that she was screened and had a BRCA1 gene mutation that put her at high risk for breast cancer, the number of women requesting referrals from their doctors for DNA testing doubled over the previous year in the following six months. Experts predict a greater participatory model of healthcare in the future.

In fact, personalized medicine—broadly defined as diagnostics, therapeutics, and consumer-level care such as nutrition and wellness programs—is estimated to grow at a compound annual rate of 11 percent. Hospitals and medical organizations are driving the growth of patient-specific care to reduce costs and provide more-effective treatment. In cancer diagnostics, for example, genotyping allows doctors to identify particular mutations and use that information to select the best possible drug therapy. Genomic testing also helps doctors predict how a patient may respond to a particular drug; this helps avoid adverse reactions, eliminate potentially less-effective treatments, and improve health outcomes. Today, 75 percent of healthcare costs are spent on managing chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. With the aid of personal genomics, the former chairman of GlaxoSmithKline has predicted that by 2020, most treatments in industrialized countries will be “pre-symptomatic,” thus helping to relieve the burden of chronic diseases.

It is important to recognize that technology alone does not become an FEM; how governments, entrepreneurs, and managers scale and use the technology determines market development. In the direct-to-consumer market, for example, personal genomics companies such as 23andMe have been quick to pivot their technology in light of FDA concerns about misleading health information. Rather than offering health analysis, 23andMe changed its service toward the ancestry market, where genetic testing for lineage has become a popular method of finding ancestral roots.

The best FEMs are based on technologies that irreversibly alter the way we live for the better. Smartphone technology, for instance, make our lives easier by providing us with GPS capabilities, productivity apps, and web access from anywhere. As people began adopting the technology, the smartphone market grew 42.1 percent year over year between 2009 and 2012. The Model T—the first affordable, mass-produced automobile—gave working-class families their first opportunity to own a car. In less than 20 years, Ford produced 15 million units, and by then, personal transportation was changed forever.

Today, personal genomics and personalized medicine have the power to help health practitioners with disease prevention and effective treatment. They are also giving rise to new treatment models such as epigenetics (the study of the mutations of the genetic codes over generations) and nutrigenomics (the study of the effects of food on the genetic codes). As healthcare costs continue to skyrocket, the ability to test for predisposition and susceptibility to disease, and to identify disease or illness at an earlier stage, stand to not only generate new markets, but also transform our healthcare systems and improve our collective well-being.

Tracker Pixel for Entry