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Advances in underwriting: Saliva samples now being used to analyze biomarkers of settlement prospects

Insurance Forums Staff

Minneapolis-based life settlements specialist GWG Life claims it is the first insuretech company to apply epigenetic technology in a way that it says could transform life insurance underwriting.

The financial services company announced this month that it is now collecting and analyzing epigenetic samples from life insurance policy owners, making it the first insurtech company to apply DNA Methylation technology to life insurance underwriting.

Life insurance policy owners submitting their policies to GWG Life for evaluation and purchase are now providing saliva samples that are used to analyze the overall health and life expectancy of policy owners. The samples contain cells that can be analyzed for specific levels of methylation that occur in epigenetic biomarkers. As published in the September 2016 issue of Aging, certain levels of methylated biomarkers were proven to be predictive of an individual’s risk of all-cause mortality, contributing to a more accurate estimate of the life expectancy of policyholders, a key factor for the firm’s life insurance secondary market business.

A March 13 article in medical publication STAT about GWG’s introduction of epigenetic technology says GWG bought 315 life insurance policies last year, and that in the past month, GWG has collected saliva samples using a sponge from about 40 of the people considering selling their policy. Only a few refused.

“We have moved quickly from theoretical science to applied science by converting the epigenetic technology into life expectancy underwriting, which we plan to use as additional information to enhance our traditional underwriting practices,” said GWG Life CEO Jon Sabes. “Dr. Steve Horvath proved the science is more than theory and we are going to commercialize it, not only for our current business, but for the life insurance industry as a whole. The technology could significantly improve the life insurance underwriting process in terms of its accuracy, speed and cost. I can clearly envision the day when life insurance purchasers will no longer be subjected to traditional invasive underwriting practices.”

Since optioning the epigenetic biomarker methylation technology from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) in November, GWG Life has been working to adapt it to its current business in the life insurance secondary market. In February, the company hired Dr. Brian Chen, a recognized expert on aging and epigenetic technology, to lead the initiative to create new methods of life insurance underwriting using epigenetic biomarker methylation technology.

The company also announced it has retained insurance technology expert Tom Nodine and a team from KPMG to assist in assessing the value proposition of the advanced predictive technology for the life insurance industry. GWG Life is the first company to identify the implications of the predictive powers of epigenetic biomarkers for the life insurance business.

“Tom is working closely with our leadership team to quantify the opportunity and develop a road map for deployment,” said CEO Jon Sabes. “His experience in technology and insurance is proving to be invaluable to us as we begin to apply the science to expand our business.”

Tom Nodine is an acknowledged expert on technology in the insurance business. He was Senior Vice President for Technology, Operations Strategy and Innovation for Allstate Insurance and led the insurance practices for KPMG and Booz & Company. As a consultant, Tom has helped companies all over the world adapt to the rapid changes technology has had on their industries.

• Thoughts or comments? Please visit this thread: Saliva Samples a Key to Simplifying Underwriting?

About GWG Holdings: GWG Holdings, Inc. (GWGH), the parent company of GWG Life, is a financial services company committed to transforming the life insurance industry through disruptive and innovative products and services. Already a recognized disruptor in the life insurance secondary market, GWG Life seeks to further transform the industry by applying advanced epigenetic mortality prediction technology to the life insurance and related industries. As of Sept. 30, 2016, GWG Life’s growing portfolio consisted of $1.27 billion in face value of life insurance policy benefits and paid consumers $357 million for their policies as compared to the $26 million surrender value offered by the insurance carriers. For more information email [email protected] or visit www.gwgh.com.



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