Life expectancies as an average of a population are easy to track. Trying to determine individual life expectancy is a much more difficult proposition. But it is something that – if it can be done somewhat reliably and economically – holds great promise for life insurers who are eager to better predict the lifespan of policy applicants.
Life Epigenetics, the insurtech subsidiary of GWG Holdings, Inc., announced last week that two major life insurance companies will begin pilot programs to test its epigenetic-based M-Panel technology. The idea is that the technology analyzes genetic material from blood or saliva to achieve a more accurate – and cheaper – way of predicting lifespan than the traditional method of blood analysis and medical reviews.
The announcement was made during InsureTech Connect 2017 in Las Vegas, where more than 3,500 incumbents, entrepreneurs and investors gathered to discuss the growth and emphasis being placed on innovation in the insurance industry.
The pilot programs, developed in partnership with two life insurance companies (which Life Epigenetics declined to identify), are designed to explore how the M-Panel predictive epigenetic technology can be best applied to insurance products and services. As part of scaling up its operational capabilities, Life Epigenetics says it has set up a global network of suppliers and test facilities that enable it to analyze tens of thousands of saliva samples per month. Life Epigenetics has also established research partnerships with two major universities.
Life Epigenetics holds the exclusive license for lifespan-predictive technology developed at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) for the life insurance industry. Since February, the company has been collecting and analyzing data from life insurance policyholders. The pilot programs with the two life insurance companies are intended to demonstrate new ways epigenetic data can be used to improve underwriting efficiency and precision.
“We are excited to announce these first steps in the process of commercializing our technology for the global life insurance industry,” said Jon Sabes, CEO of Life Epigenetics (pictured). “We believe we are now in position to create breakthrough efficiencies for life insurance companies in terms of improving the precision of their underwriting.”
Life Epigenetics is discussing its work with major life insurance and reinsurance companies that have expressed interest in learning more about how the technology can add value to their businesses. “We have been pleased that our work has not gone unnoticed by life insurance companies around the world,” Sabes said.
Under the direction of Life Epigenetics’ Chief Science Officer Dr. Brian Chen, Life Epigenetics has continued research into the “DNA methylation-based predictor of mortality technology” developed by Dr. Steve Horvath at UCLA. Dr. Chen is first author in Dr. Horvath’s original research on the mortality predictor and the biological clock.
Sabes touched on the legality of life insurers potentially using epigenetics to determine policy rates during a panel discussion at InsureTech Connect titled “Underwriting 2.0: Opening Pandora’s Box in Life.” Sabes noted that while health insurers are subject to restrictions based on the 2008 Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), life insurers are exempt from the Act. Congress passed GINA to prohibit discrimination by health insurers and employers based on the information people carry in their genes.
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About Life Epigenetics: Life Epigenetics is the insurtech subsidiary of GWG Holdings, Inc. (Nasdaq:GWGH) that is dedicated to creating new technology that is transformative to the way life insurance and financial services underwrite and deliver longevity-based products and services. The company’s “DNA methylation-based predictor of mortality technology,” exclusively licensed from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), provides unprecedented new insight into longevity using the cutting edge science of epigenetics.
For more information about Life Epigenetics, Inc., visit www.lifeegx.com
About GWG Holdings, Inc.: GWG Holdings, Inc. (Nasdaq: GWGH) is a financial services company committed to transforming the life insurance industry through disruptive and innovative products and services. The company owns Life Epigenetics and GWG Life. GWG Life is developing a suite of new longevity-based products for consumers and financial advisors under the LifeCare Xchange (LCX). The LifeCare Xchange provides consumers owning life insurance with the opportunity to exchange their life insurance into products that can be used to pay for long-term care and meet other retirement financial needs. Life Epigenetics is developing transformative M-Panel epigenetic technology to disrupt traditional life insurance underwriting practices. Since 2006, GWG Life has provided seniors over $436 million in exchange value for their life insurance and, as of June 30, 2017, owns a portfolio of over $1.5 billion in face value of policy benefits. For more information about GWG Holdings, Inc. visit www.gwgh.com.