Thursday 15 November 2018

Ageing population boosts DNA firms

Japan is rapidly aging, with a third of the population projected to be 65 or older by 2035. Stock image
Japan is rapidly aging, with a third of the population projected to be 65 or older by 2035. Stock image

Shiho Takezawa

DNA testing at home in Japan is starting to gain traction as more people age and seek answers about their risks for diseases.

The market for consumer genetic tests is poised to reach 6.6bn yen (€50m) in sales by 2022, up from 4.3bn yen last year, according to Fuji Chimera Research Institute.

The sector is dominated by two local companies, Genesis Healthcare and Genequest. For 5,000 yen to 30,000 yen, customers can send off a cheek swab to find out their propensities for alcohol intolerance and allergies, to risks of diabetes and strokes.

Japan is rapidly aging, with a third of the population projected to be 65 or older by 2035.

While more people are aware of health risks that can be detected through early DNA testing, Japan's self-testing market is dwarfed by the US, where people spent $73m (€62m) on genetic exams last year, according to Kalorama Information.

The two Japanese startups are betting that testing kits, as well as online services using compiled genetic data, will find greater demand as people become more confident in the technology.

"I see a lot of potential in the business," said Genequest founder Shoko Takahashi. Genesis, the top testing firm with 70pc of the domestic market, has compiled data for more than 600,000 users, and is aiming to reach 1 million this year.

It also operates as GeneLife in Japan. Rakuten invested 1.4 billion yen in the Tokyo-based startup last August. (Bloomberg)

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