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Doctors should think like mechanics, says Color CEO Othman Laraki

On the latest Recode Decode, Laraki says turning our bodies into data will change health care forever.

Qiagen N.V. in Hilden, provider of sample and assay technologies for molecular diagnostics Spiegl/ullstein bild via Getty Images

It’s been more than a decade since an international team of scientists sequenced the human genome. But the genomics revolution is only just beginning, Color Genomics CEO Othman Laraki says.

“Each one of us, we have a torrent of data in our bodies,” Laraki said on the latest episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher. “We’re generating a tremendous amount of data, and today, we make use of almost none of that.”

He said most health data used to be recorded by hand and stored at the hospital. But now, “some of the most important health data being generated about you is on your phone.” Color sells a $250 kit that lets buyers find out if they are at risk for certain hereditary cancers and connects them with genetic counselors to analyze that data.

Laraki said the declining cost of gene testing, combined with the rise of artificial intelligence in health care, will transform how doctors do their jobs.

“If you look at how we practice medicine today, it’s more of an expert system, where you have a decision tree that you try to make fit into people’s heads, and you call those people doctors,” he said. “Ideally, you’d like them to be able to use your genome, your family history, your glucose readings from the last year, etc. But all that data, we can’t process it as humans. So the question is: How do we use software to enable us to work with that data?”

Currently, he argued, your mechanic knows more about your car than your doctor knows about your body, because it’s common practice when you car comes in for an oil change to plug that car into a computer that runs a battery of tests. He said “read[ing] that data from our bodies” is already possible, and we’re now in the “transition time” before truly personalized medicine becomes commonplace.

So when will it be possible to get your genome tested at the corner drugstore? “Within the next few years,” Laraki said.

You can listen to Recode Decode in the audio player above, or subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, TuneIn, Stitcher and SoundCloud.

If you like this show, you should also sample our other podcasts:

  • Recode Media with Peter Kafka features no-nonsense conversations with the smartest and most interesting people in the media world, with new episodes every Thursday. Use these links to subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, TuneIn, Stitcher and SoundCloud.
  • Too Embarrassed to Ask, hosted by Kara Swisher and The Verge's Lauren Goode, answers the tech questions sent in by our readers and listeners. You can hear new episodes every Friday on iTunes, Google Play Music, TuneIn, Stitcher and SoundCloud.
  • And Recode Replay has all the audio from our live events, including the Code Conference, Code Media and the Code Commerce Series. Subscribe today on iTunes, Google Play Music, TuneIn and Stitcher.

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