Personalised medicine and the UK insurance sector

Case study


PHG Foundation have extensive experience in assessing legal, ethical and regulatory aspects of healthcare – particularly around genomics and personalised medicine, health data and digital technologies.

The advent of new technologies with greater predictive power may mean that individuals and insurers have a much more accurate picture of future health risks than was possible in the past.  This could offer significant benefits, mitigate potential problems and allow earlier diagnosis of serious disease. However, it may also bring new challenges and obligations for the insurance industry in how they engage with their customers and society.

As part of the partnership between the University of Cambridge and the global insurance company Aviva, we were asked to produce a short report examining the changing obligations on the UK insurance sector that could arise as more personalised medicine becomes available.

What we did

Our report investigated the probable implications for the insurance sector in their obligations towards society (for example, should a proportion of the population be unable to access insurance) and towards their customers – considering whether insurers, as holders of health data, will have new obligations towards the insured

Our work provided:

  • Summary of the technologies likely to drive changes
  • Introduction to data ethics and relevant regulatory frameworks and codes
  • Assessment of the obligations of the role of insurers
  • Advice on relevance of personalised medicine for insurance
  • Discussion of wider implications for policy


The report was considered by the Aviva data ethics committee, and also formed the basis of a New Statesman magazine article by Aviva’s Associate Medical Director, sharing awareness of the issues posed for insurance by personalised medicine with a much wider audience.

"There are some topics – such as data ethics – where it is really helpful having Cambridge input. This is such an important subject we need to have not just our own view but also an impartial, world-class academic view."

Dr Orlando Machado, Chief Data Scientist, Aviva PLC

Working with a world-leading insurer such as Aviva allowed us to provide constructive policy advice for real-world issues, as well as supporting the relationship between the University of Cambridge and Aviva.

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