With $36 million in the bank, Lee Hood as a co-founder and George Church on its scientific advisory board, Arivale is preparing to bring genome sequencing the public. And while the focus is on setting up a consumer wellness service, Hood and his collaborators are very much aware that creating "a dense data cloud of each individual" may also result in the development of a useful research tool.
The "dense data cloud" referred to by Hood in an interview with FierceBiotech will include each participant's full-genome sequence and the output from periodic tests of their blood, saliva and stool samples. Users of the service will pay $2,000 a year for the tests and associated personalized health advice. Arivale has already rounded up 100 people in Seattle for its beta testing phase, with a view to letting more participants in and expanding to San Francisco once it finds its feet. As it stands, Arivale is still negotiating with sequencing suppliers.
In some regards, Arivale resembles a turbocharged 23andMe, with the latter's single-nucleotide polymorphism genotyping replaced by full-genome sequencing and a platter of supporting tests. The resemblance extends to the company's interest in using the data it generates for research. Arivale will give users the option to share their deidentified data with other organizations, something Hood thinks most users will be open to doing. The sequencing pioneer told Xconomy the data repository Arivale will build could be useful in drug research and cited 23andMe as a great model.
Hood sees serious potential in the approach being pursued by Arivale, putting the nascent business ahead of Amgen ($AMGN) and his other ventures in terms of the potential to transform human health. "I think the biggest opportunity we're going to have is to look at the dark matter of human biology like we've never done before," Hood told FierceBiotech. Arivale is far from alone in looking to data from a battery of tests to understand the border between wellness and illness, although the way it is going about gathering the information sets it apart.
J. Craig Venter is casting the data-gathering net even wider at Human Longevity, while Google ($GOOG) is seeking to define the characteristics of a healthy person in its Baseline Study. Neither initiative is a consumer-focused organization like Arivale, though.