Apple offers free genetic tests for its employees

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Apple is now offering genetic tests for its employees
And all employees got before was a discount on the new iPhone!
Photo: MIKI Yoshihito/Flickr CC

Apple is offering its employees free genetic testing for diseases, courtesy of a deal with California genomic testing lab Color Genomics.

Cupertino offers these tests through AC Wellness, the company’s employee health clinics. The hope is that genetic testing could help employees understand potential health problems they face — and take steps to reduce risk.

A report for CNBC notes that:

“By offering cutting-edge medical treatments like genetic testing, AC Wellness can help Apple recruit and retain talented employees. In addition, although AC Wellness is technically a separate company from Apple, medical experts have speculated that it could help Apple quietly test new products or ideas without risking leaks. So the group’s partnership with Color could indicate Apple’s broader interest in the space.”

Color Genomics tests cover gene mutations known to be associated with cancer and cardiovascular disease. It also includes ancestry information. Unlike publicly available competitors such as Ancestry and 23andMe, Color’s tests are not available to just anyone who wants them. To receive them, members of Apple’s AC Wellness staff must recommend employees take the test.

It’s not clear exactly who qualifies for Apple’s free testing. CNBC suggests that it is Apple’s Silicon Valley employees. I’m not sure how many of these perks extend to contractors, Apple Store employees, or the like.

Apple offers genetic tests as a perk

Other tech companies such as Amazon already offer health clinics. For instance, Amazon Care is available to employees based at Amazon’s HQ in Seattle. It has not revealed if it offers genetic testing as part of this.

This is the first time I’ve heard about Apple offering this kind of testing for employees. It doesn’t surprise me, though. Apple has been pushing into health and wellness for a while now. Much of this has been consumer-facing, such as the EKG heart reader on the Apple Watch. CEO Tim Cook even said he thinks health care might wind up being Apple’s lasting legacy.

Combine that with Silicon Valley companies’ tendency to offer lavish perks (one of the reasons Apple is frequently listed as a top employer), and this makes a whole lot of sense. Apple’s other perks include good pay and discounted or free tech products.

Update: One excellent Twitter user points out that Color is using a domain name that was bought by Apple back in 2012. Originally it was used by a video sharing app. At some point it was transferred over to Color Genomics. That suggests that this relationship, at least to some extent, has existed for a while.