Color review – Do robotics and AI lower cost?

Color Review Summary

Color is a clinical genetic testing company that stands out with affordable and transparent pricing. Read more in our Color Genomics review!

Christina Marvin

Results
Price
Additional features

Summary

Color is a clinical genetic testing company that includes counselors and physicians consultations throughout the process. Results are limited to hereditary cancers, heart disease, and medication response.

4.3

7 Facts from our Color Review

  1. Location: Burlingame, CA (San Francisco, CA)
  2. Products: Genetic tests for mutations associated with risk of cancer, genetic forms of heart disease, medication responses, infectious diseases testing (including COVID-19)
  3. Ordering: Online or at a doctor’s office
  4. Reports: Help to make medical decisions in consultation with a medical professional
  5. Data availability: Data download not available for most tests
  6. Cost: $0-$249; tests covered by insurance if ordered by a personal physician 
  7. Alternatives: Nebula Genomics (Whole Genome Sequencing that can be used in consultation with a medical professional)

This review is written with the intent to be as unbiased as possible. However, it represents the opinion of an individual reviewer and is therefore subjective. Furthermore, at Nebula Genomics we seek to educate the public about the benefits of Whole Genome Sequencing. Information about our Whole Genome Sequencing DNA test is therefore incorporated into the review.

July 25, 2022

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Access to genetic counselors and clinical pharmacists
  • Ongoing patient support through counseling and physician involvement
  • Reasonable price ($249)
  • Health insurance can cover the cost of some tests

Cons

  • Focused on common hereditary types of cancers and heart disease with little to no focus on general health
  • Insurance covers selected tests only if ordered at a medical office
  • Due to high demand and its current focus on Color COVID testing, results for genetic tests might take longer than usual

Color Introduction

Color was previously called “Color Genomics”. Thus, the latter will be used to describe the genetic testing offered by the company.

Color Health, Inc., is a California-based health technology company. It was co-founded by Elad Gil (former VP of Corporate Strategy at Twitter), Nish Bhat (Applied mathematics and molecular cell biology expert), and Othman Laraki (board member of the American Cancer Society), CEO in 2015. It offers genetic tests for cancer, heart disease, medication responses, and COVID-19 testing.

Patients can order a test with the help of their physician or an independent one. The physician reviews the patient’s information, determines eligibility, and orders a Color DNA test on the patient’s behalf. The physician who ordered the test will automatically receive a copy of the results. 

The results will inform the patient if they have a gene mutation that increases the risk of developing a disease. Results from Color DNA tests do not diagnose conditions but just report genetic predispositions.

The company claims to have dropped the costs of genetic sequencing thanks to robotics and machine learning to perform routine tasks, making genetic testing available to many more people. 

Since March 2020, the company leveraged its healthcare services to address the COVID-19 pandemic by providing COVID-19 testing programs through the FDA Emergency Use Authorization. In June 2020, Color also launched a high-throughput COVID-19 testing laboratory. Although the company still offers DNA-testing health services for cancer and heart health, it has shifted its efforts towards responding to the pandemic crisis.

Are you interested in a test that decodes 100% of your DNA instead of testing only a few genes? Nebula Genomics offers Whole Genome Sequencing, a complete DNA test that decodes all 20,000 genes and regulatory genomic regions. Click here to learn more!

Review of Color Genomics Products and Services

Color Genomics offers three DNA sequencing products that differ in how many genes it analyzes. In addition, all Color tests include ongoing access to genetic counselors and clinical pharmacists employed by Color Genomics. 

Standard (only available through employers and healthcare professionals, rates may vary)

The Color Standard test is available through employers and healthcare professionals to run a large-scale healthcare program at their organizations. It includes the ten most actionable genes for hereditary cancer and heart conditions. The CDC recognizes these genes as important for public and population health care. The test also analyzes 14 genes related to medication reaction. Examples include gene CYP1A2, which metabolizes drugs containing caffeine and acetaminophen, and CYP2D6, in charge of metabolizing drugs that include antidepressants like SSRIs and beta-blockers prescribed for high blood pressure.

Extended ($249)

The Color Extended test is designed for patients who want a more comprehensive report of how their genes link to disease. It is especially beneficial for those with a personal or family history of breast cancer and other cancers or heart disease. The test analyzes 74 genes. 

Hereditary Cancer ($249)

The Color Hereditary Cancer test is designed for patients who want to understand hereditary cancer risk only (e.g. breast cancer risk). This kit includes testing for breast and ovarian cancer-associated genes (30) and genes related to uterine, colorectal, melanoma, pancreatic, stomach, and prostate cancers. Detecting cancer at an early stage increases chances the chances of survival.

Interested in genetic testing for hereditary cancer? You may be interested in these posts:

Review of Color Genomics Programs

Family Testing Program

This program allows close relatives of patients to access genetic testing at a reduced price. Parents, siblings, and adult children of patients who test positive for a genetic mutation can order a Color DNA testing kit for $50. Color Genomics accepts positive test results from its own tests as well as any clinical-grade lab. The company claims that its accuracy is over 99% in its genomics lab.

Employer Program

This program currently offers genetic testing as a benefit to employees at over 100 organizations. Partners include Visa, GE Appliances, and Levi Strauss & Co. 

Color provides employee education and engagement, access to genetic testing and counseling, and a high return on benefit investment through employee personalized care. 

Employees who volunteer to participate can purchase a kit at a 50-100% discount. Employees receive all the benefits of buying a kit, including ongoing free genetic counseling. As part of the program, the company analyzes genes associated with hereditary cancer and heart disease. 

Employers receive anonymized aggregated results. These results are meant to identify risk areas in their employee population and help the employer choose the most impactful benefits. Color Genomics does note that the availability of this data to the employer depends on the number of participants and compliance with data privacy regulations and guidelines.

Review of Taking a Color Genomics Test

Customers can purchase a DNA testing kit online, but a physician must order it. Personal physicians can order online through a HIPAA-compliant online portal. Otherwise, an independent physician from an external network will review patient information and order the DNA test.

Screenshot of the Color ordering form with the option of ordering from an independent physician or own physician
Color Genomics customers can decide which physician should sign off their tests. 

The customer collects a saliva sample using the sample collection kit and mails it back with a prepaid return label. The tests are performed in a CAP-accredited and CLIA-certified laboratory. A certified medical professional quality-checks each sample before returning the results. Patients and medical professionals receive the report after 3-4 weeks. 

The Color report is provided to the patient and the physician who ordered the test. They can access it online and download it as a PDF. 

Review of a Color Genomics Report

Report Overview

Color Genomics provides a DNA health report that analyzes up to 74 genes that fall into 3 categories:

  • 30 genes that impact risk for breast (including the breast cancer genes BRCA1 and BRCA2), ovarian, uterine, colon, melanoma, pancreatic, stomach, and prostate cancers.
  • 30 genes associated with genetic forms of heart disease (including high cholesterol).
  • 14 genes that can influence how the body processes medications. Examples include the CYP1A2 gene, which metabolizes drugs that include caffeine and acetaminophen, and CYP2D6, which metabolizes drugs that include antidepressants like SSRIs and beta-blockers for high blood pressure.
Screenshot of a description of three analyses done by Color: Cancer, Heard, and Medications
Color Genomics tests for genes linked to cancer, heart disease, and medication responses

Color Genomics Sample Report 

A Color Genomics report includes sections on genetic risks and screening guidelines.

The first section of the report indicates the presence of risk-increasing mutations. Then, it provides details on the mutation and describes the extent to which a patient’s DNA increases the risk for a disease or affects drug response. In the example below, you are reading the results of a Color Genomics BRCA test.

Detailed Color Genomics report on hereditary cancer test informing that a pathogenic mutation was identified in the BRCA1 gene
The first section in the Color report describes the identified mutations

If no risk-increasing mutations are identified, it is also communicated clearly in the report. This example from a heart disease analysis shows a negative result. 

Detailed Color Genomics report on hereditary heart health informing that no mutations were identified
Report example if no clinically-significant mutations are found

The following section provides information on how risk-increasing mutations might impact family members.

Section of a Color Genomics report listing reasons why patients should share their results with relatives
A Color Genomics report describes how this mutation may affect a patient’s family

The report then provides risk information and cancer screening guidelines based on genetic testing results, family history, and other factors such as age. These recommendations come from experts such as the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN). 

Section of a Color Genomics report outlining guidelines to knowing the BRCA1 screening
A Color Genomics report provides screening guidelines

The final sections describe the test methodology, and limitations, and include a disclaimer. 

Sample reports for a patient with a BRCA1 (gene linked with hereditary cancer) mutations, a patient with a MYH7 (gene linked with hereditary heart disease) mutation, and a patient without an MYH7 can be found on its website.

Review of Color Genetic Counseling Services

Both patients and physicians have access to ongoing consultations with in-house genetic counselors and clinical pharmacists. These professionals provide common genetic counseling services:

  • Walk through the Color Genomics report
  • Discuss how the results could impact family members
  • Answer any questions the patient might have
  • Help the patient determine the best questions to ask their doctor 

These services set Color Genomics apart from most other DNA test sites. With this company, patients always have access to a professional who can help interpret the results.

Patients can schedule a genetic counseling session from their account. This meeting typically lasts less than an hour. 

Payments and Reimbursements 

Patients pay $249 for the Color Extended test. They can do this either in their medical professional’s office or at home with a credit card. 

Color only accepts billing from insurance companies for the Color Hereditary Cancer test. Therefore, a patient must be eligible under their insurer’s medical policy. Additionally, they must order the test in person in their medical professional’s office. If a patient chooses to order online, they must cover the full price of the test ($249). 

A medical professional will submit an online order through the Color Provider Platform. The online tool quickly determines if a patient is eligible for insurance billing. If so, Color Genomics will submit a claim to the insurance plan. 

Color Genomics does not accept insurance billing for Color Extended ($249, includes hereditary cancer, hereditary heart health, and medication response). It also does not take insurance for the Color Family Testing Program ($50 for immediate family members of patients who test positive for a mutation).

Review of Color Genomics Privacy Policy

Patients can choose to share de-identified genetic information with Color Data (a public DNA database) and third-party research studies. Patients can also provide consent to share their results with healthcare professionals. 

Some individuals will be able to view a patient’s genetic results and health history. A genetic counselor reviews patient health histories to interpret the report. A certified medical professional reviews all genomic results before they are released. Additionally, the medical professional who ordered the test will automatically receive a copy of the results. 

Color Genomics contributes de-identified DNA data to public health databases like ClinVar at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This database serves as an archive of information on genetic variants and their relation to human health. 

A patient’s employer may pay (in full or part) for the DNA test through the Color Genomics Employer Program. Employers have the right to receive anonymized and/or aggregated data for analytic purposes. 

A patient’s healthcare system may also pay (in full or part) for the Color Genomics DNA test. The company may provide the healthcare system with genetic testing results and personal information. 

Color Genomics shares de-identified information (such as trends about the general use of its services) publicly and with partners. It may also contribute de-identified data to studies, either their own or in collaboration with third-party research partners. 

The company incorporated a COVID-19 Informed Consent for patients using the service. The information obtained from this test will be shared with your ordering provider only. Just like with your genetic test, these results may also be shared with authorities as required by law. 

Low Coverage Whole Genome Sequencing (LcWGS)

In October 2018, Color Genomics introduced low-coverage whole genome sequencing. Its goal was to help make genetic testing more accessible and inclusive. 

Standard genotyping arrays only detect known genetic variants. The majority of sequenced genomes are from people of Caucasian and European descent. Thus, it can be surmised that genotyping arrays lack genetic variants for other populations. 

Color Genomics offers LcWGS to make genetic testing more useful to people who are not of Caucasian descent. LcWGS enables that because instead of testing for pre-selected mutations, it samples the whole genome unbiasedly. It is also much more affordable than high-coverage whole genome sequencing. 

Patients can choose to contribute their low coverage whole genome sequencing data toward research. Patients can also request a FASTQ file with the raw DNA data from the LcWGS. Color Genomics does not guarantee that this data has been analyzed or validated by its lab.  

Review of Color Genomics Discovery

Patients who purchase a Color Genomics product will receive Color Discovery updates on an ongoing basis. The updates provide details about how genetic variants affect common traits. 

Through Color Discovery, patients may also be eligible to receive an ancestry report. This report is produced by comparing patient DNA to publicly available genetic information in the 1000 Genomes Project. These reference populations are broad. Thus, this ancestry DNA test results are less granular compared to 23andMe and AncestryDNA.   

Description of what Color Discovery analyzes with icons representing lactose intolerance, alcohol flush response, and earwax type
Typical traits analyzed as part of Color Discovery

Color Discovery, including the ancestry report, is not intended to provide medical advice or help make health-related decisions. As of 2020, Color Discovery is only available in the United States.

Color Genomics in the News

In 2019, Forbes reported that the NIH awarded Color Genomics a $4.6 million grant. This money provided genetic counseling to participants in the NIH’s “All of Us” research program. 

The program aims to advance precision medicine for diverse populations. Enrolled participants provide health information and have their whole genome sequenced. 

In January 2019, Color Genomics announced a new partnership with Chicago-based NorthShore University HealthSystem. In October 2019, it announced a similar partnership with the Louisiana-based Ochsner Health System. Both associations were meant to integrate genetic testing into primary care, providing more people with access to genetic testing. 

The COVID-19 epidemic prompted many labs to convert their spaces into testing facilities. Color followed this trend and turned its clinical processing lab into a COVID-19 testing lab. This FDA-approved process started in April 2020. 

Stanford University announced in August 2021 that it would require all its students to take a weekly COVID-19 test regardless of their vaccination status. Color is the company of choice, which is provided for free to students. 

In September 2021, Gabriel Stricker, a former Google head of search ecosystem, joined Color as chief communications officer. He held that same position on Twitter in 2012 before joining Google in 2015. 

Work life appears to be a priority for Color Genomics careers, which has a nearly perfect star rating on Glassdoor.

Other Color Genomics Reviews

Color Genomics reviews on Amazon received 4.5 out of 5 stars with 100 reviews. Most customers praised the test for its being easy to use and for the results being easy to understand. 

On Facebook, the company received 4.2 out of 5 stars based on the opinion of 41 people. 

Nebula Genomics

Nebula Genomics offers a 30x Whole-Genome Sequencing service that sequences 100% of your DNA. This price is comparable with Color Genomics ($249), which sequences only a few genes. 

Color Genomics reports are limited to hereditary linked cancers, heart disease, and medication responses. In contrast, we provide our users with regular updates based on the latest discoveries that incorporate hundreds of genetic variants. We also give our users access to tools to explore their entire genome, deep ancestry reports, and enable them to download their raw DNA data. 

Nebula Genomics is not a diagnostic test. However, our Whole Genome Sequencing data is of the highest quality and can be used by physicians and genetic counselors. Individuals who believe they are at risk for a genetic disorder should consult a healthcare professional before taking DNA sequencing tests. 


Color GenomicsNebula Genomics
DNA testing methodSequencing of up to 74 genesWhole-Genome Sequencing (all 20,000 genes and regulatory regions)
Tools to explore dataLimitedYes (learn more)
Ancestry reportingLimited Deep ancestry reporting with full Y chromosome and mtDNA sequencing
Data accessLow coverage whole genome sequencing available upon request (FASTQ file only)Yes (FASTQ, BAM, and VCF files)
Cost$249 (insurance may reduce this cost for some patients with certain tests) $0, $99, $299
Aid for making medical decisionsYes (includes genetic counseling services) No, but results can be used in consultation with genetic counselors and medical professionals.

Interested in COVID-19 travel tests? Kurix Health and Project Screen offer special testing meeting requirements for departing and arriving in the UK. Plus, Vault Health offers tests for individuals and organizations within the United States.

Other clinical genetic testing companies you may be interested in:

Includes carrier risk:

General conditions affecting adults:

Rare diseases:

Tumor genetics:

Mental health:

  • GeneSight (clinical genomic test for psychotropics)
  • Genomind (pharmacogenomic testing for mental health treatment)

If you’re looking for whole genome sequencing products, you may be interested in:

You can also check out Luna DNA (compensation for contributing to genomic research) and Map My Gene (non-clinical test for disease risks).

Did you like our Color Genomics review? You can read more reviews on our blog and check out our complete guide to the best DNA test kit and other home tests.