J. Craig Venter, the man who led the first human genome analysis, is offering a new type of health platform that promises to deliver a complete picture of an individual’s health and disease risk, albeit with a hefty price tag.
Now co-founder and CEO of genomics technology company Human Longevity, Inc. (HLI), Venter recently announced the launch of the Health Nucleus research project, at HLI’s headquarters in San Diego. The company plans to open additional Health Nucleus facilities in the United States and abroad in 2016.
“The Health Nucleus is our opportunity to lead the way to genomic health, enabling individuals and their physicians to pivot towards a more proactive, preventative and predictive healthcare future,” explained Venter.
The platform works by combining genomic analysis with a series of clinical and biological technologies, to achieve a complete picture of a person’s individual health. Such measures include: whole genome sequencing; microbiome sequencing; metabolome characterization; a comprehensive body medical resonance imaging (MRI) scan; and customized laboratory tests and screenings.
All of this information gets curated by a team of clinicians, geneticists, and bioinformaticians and delivered to the customer as a report. Through this comprehensive battery of tests, the goal is to find out what each client’s susceptibilities are to health issues such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and cardiovascular disease.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has yet to approve all of these tests. HLI “was able to sidestep FDA restrictions on the clinical use of experimental tests by operating—at least initially—as a clinical research project under Institutional Research Board (IRB) protocols,” said Pamila Brar, MD, medical director of Health Nucleus, in an article in Xconomy.
In the statement released by HLI, Venter said, “When I sequenced the first human genome in 2000, I saw the potential for a genomics-driven approach to healthcare, as I uncovered personal health-related insights I would have never otherwise known. The Health Nucleus is a critical step to realizing that potential and providing that kind of insight to individuals worldwide.”
The service isn’t cheap. A comprehensive physical of this nature may cost between $25,000 and $50,000, depending on a number of factors, including services provided, Venter told Xconomy.
Efforts are underway at HLI to economize genetic tests. A month before the Health Nucleus announcement, HLI said it would be offering whole exome sequencing and cancer genome sequencing to people insured by Discovery Ltd., in the United Kingdom and South Africa, for just $250.
“We’re trying to start at both ends, and not just be a program for the wealthy,” Venter told Xconomy.