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Brainstorm Health: Color Genomics Exclusive, Apple Watch Heart Study, Marijuana Derived Drug

Happy Friday, readers!

A bit of exclusive news for you this morning. Jefferson Health, the Philadelphia-based hospital system, will offer free genetic testing to its 30,000 employees in a collaboration with DNA sequencing firm Color Genomics, the organizations tell Fortune.

“Jefferson has an almost 200-year-old history. In using our tested knowledge while thinking like a start-up company by partnering with a cutting-edge genomics company, we can unlock the key to personalizing health care in a way that patients can make informed decisions,” said Dr. Stephen Klasko, president of Thomas Jefferson University and CEO of Jefferson Health, in a statement.

Klasko and the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital’s Karen Knudsen, enterprise director of the NCI-Designated Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center, spoke with me about initiative and its goal of promoting personalized treatment for employees—as well as what sets it apart from increasingly popular at-home DNA testing services like 23andMe.

“For one thing, this program is completely optional,” says Knudsen. Employees who chose to opt in can do so through two different routes: Take the Color test and then see one of the firm’s board-certified genetic counselors (for free), or consult with a board-certified cancer genetic experts at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center (also for free).

Klasko and Color CEO Othman Laraki point out that the genetic counseling component is critical, since patients may be overwhelmed or confused by a DNA screen that it’s directly tethered to expert advice on interpreting the results.

The Color test itself is a spit test that analyzes 30 cancer risk genes, 30 genes associated with hereditary heart conditions, and 14 genes that determine how the body processes prescription medication and may help inform dosing choices. Taken together, those are conditions that can prove medically—and financially—costly for all parties involved, especially if they aren’t caught early.

Read on for the day’s news, and have a wonderful weekend.

Sy Mukherjee


Stanford’s Apple Watch heart study has 400,000 participants. Stanford’s massive heart health study fueled by the Apple Watch is pulling in some eye popping numbers. It now has 400,000 participants who signed up between last November and August. The next step? Assessing the data that’s been collected and releasing it sometime next year. (Fortune)


FDA recalls another blood pressure medication. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recalled the blood pressure medication irbesartan after tested pills showed levels of organic chemical N-nitrosodiethylamine (NDEA), a known carcinogen. Just months ago, the agency recalled a different heart medication over the presence of that same chemical. (Fortune)

The first marijuana-derived drug is now available in all 50 states. U.K.-based GW Pharmaceuticals’ pioneering Epidiolex, the first FDA-approved cannabis-derived medication, is now on sale in all 50 states. The therapy doesn’t contain THC, the “high” inducing part of the marijuana plant; rather, it contains cannabidiol, or CBD, and is cleared to treat rare forms of epilepsy. (Fortune)


States with stricter gun laws have fewer child gun deaths. A large new Stanford University study finds that half as many children are killed by guns in U.S. states with stricter gun laws. The study authors note that there have been more than 26,000 firearm-related child deaths in the past two decades, and that guns are the second biggest cause of premature child deaths in the U.S. (The Mercury News)


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Will #MeToo Spark a Backlash Against Women in the Workplace? by Anne Fisher

How Companies Can Help Employees Vote in the Midtermsby Ashley Spillane

Why Apple CEO Tim Cook Will Be Getting the Last Laughby Aaron Pressman

Produced by Sy Mukherjee

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