Applying Modern Biotechnology to Life Insurance Underwriting
Epigenetics can uncover how poor health habits can affect future wellness and is being viewed as a potentially powerful underwriting tool.
Costing hundreds of thousands, even millions of USD per individual, a handful of immuno- and gene therapies have been developed to-date. But in fact it’s no longer correct to talk of just “a handful” – usage expansion is already well underway and set to increase medium term.
Is science fiction becoming science fact? Liquid biopsies are a new class of blood- (or other bodily fluid-based) tests that can reveal direct evidence of cancer and are far less invasive than traditional biopsies. RGA's Dr. Daniel Zimmerman explores linkages between advances in genetics and this new technology. He also investigates limitations, potential mortality and morbidity impacts, and insurance implications.
Significant and rapid progress in genetics research and data analytics is currently enabling an unprecedented expansion in science’s understanding of the genetic underpinnings of rare and common diseases. Large-scale cohort studies such as the UK Biobank are helping scientists build powerful prognostic models for a number of diseases, including breast cancer and coronary artery disease, and hastening the development of a new tool for quantifying the inheritability of common diseases: Polygenic risk scores.
Genetic testing is becoming more accessible and commonplace, with new genetic links to diseases regularly being identified. However, the many constraints on the use of predictive genetic tests in insurance means that the easy availability of direct consumer testing is an issue that the industry must consider very carefully.
Epigenetics is poised to improve the underwriting process, moving beyond deep venous puncture blood collection and a lengthy approval process that takes months to complete.
The rise of genetic testing in recent years is fueling a debate in insurance circles over the potential risks versus benefits posed by the readily available genetic information.
The wider implications of recent advances in genetics and genomics, including polygenic risk scores, need to be considered in the context of the protection industry. RGA's Heather Lund and Richard Russell explore the topic in depth in the Journal of the Association of Insurance Medicine of Japan.
Slides from Hank's presentation at the WAHLU 2019 Spring Seminar have been posted at the WAHLU website.