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Leroy Hood
Genetics pioneer Leroy Hood is furthering his agenda for what he calls P4 medicine through a commercial venture called Arivale as well as a collaboration between his Institute for Systems Biology and Providence Health & Services. (Credit: ISB)

Good news: Arivale co-founder Leroy Hood says he can “almost guarantee” there’ll be ways to keep yourself physically and mentally fit into your 90s.

“You’re going to have to decide on your own what to do after that,” he jokes.

That near-guarantee was one of the predictions Hood delivered today as the keynote speaker for Life Science Innovation Northwest, an annual biotech conference presented this week by Life Science Washington at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle. About 800 attendees are getting acquainted with the latest ventures in the life sciences – including Arivale, which was named Startup of the Year at last month’s GeekWire Awards.

Arivale was founded last year in Seattle to follow through on what Hood has dubbed P4 medicine – an approach that puts the emphasis on health strategies that are predictive, preventive, personalized and participatory. P4 medicine has turned into a crusade for the 77-year-old Hood, who made his name in biomedicine as an inventor of the automated DNA sequencer and other essential genomic tools.

Arivale turns Hood’s personal crusade into a commercial venture. For a fee, Arivale’s subscribers get their genomes sequenced, go through a series of lab tests, have their gut microbiome analyzed and get hooked up with a FitBit activity tracker. A personal coach checks in at least once a month to track each subscriber’s progress on the road to wellness.

Hood said a pilot study involving 108 outwardly healthy subjects showed that 91 percent of them had serious nutritional deficiencies when they signed up. More than half of them had health issues, such as inflammation or pre-diabetic conditions. That was an eye-opener for Hood and his fellow researchers. “You may think that you’re well, but you can be a lot weller than you are right now,” he said.

Over the course of a year, the participants in the study were given action plans aimed at helping them become weller. Some showed improvement, some didn’t, but “100 percent of them agreed this was a transformational experience,” Hood said. The results of the study are currently undergoing pre-publication review, he said.

Lee Hood lays out his vision of scientific wellness at Life Science Innovation Northwest. (Photo courtesy of Gretchen Sorensen)
Lee Hood lays out his vision of scientific wellness at Life Science Innovation Northwest. (Photo courtesy of Gretchen Sorensen)

Hood pointed to other studies suggesting that half of the children being born today in developed countries will celebrate their 100th birthday, thanks to advances in public health. How will all those centenarians-to-be keep up their health in their later years? That’s the primary objective for Arivale, and it’s also the focus of a recently announced collaboration between Hood’s Institute for Systems Biology and Providence Health & Services.

The ISB-Providence project calls for putting 2,000 people through an Arivale program, with 2,000 other participants placed in an experimental control group. The health outcomes for each group will be compared over the course of three to five years. Researchers will also be looking for better ways to target treatment for breast cancer survivors, patients with Alzheimer’s disease and those who suffer from a type of brain tumor known as glioblastoma.

If the study turns out the way Hood hopes, that could open the way for employers and insurance companies to embrace P4 medicine more fully.

The success of Hood’s crusade for scientific wellness, and its implications for longevity and quality of life, provide the foundation for his other predictions about the future of health care.

The $100 genome takes hold: It cost nearly $3 billion to sequence the first human genome, but now the price of whole-genome sequencing is around the $1,000 level. In the next six to eight years, that price tag will decline to $100, Hood said. “It’ll make it an utterly routine part of every hospital admission,” he said. Cost reductions will make genomic technology available to even the world’s poorest countries within a decade, he said..

Wellness outweighs disease: Also within a decade, the market capitalization for ventures devoted to scientific wellness will “far exceed” that of the ventures focusing exclusively on disease treatment, Hood said.

Health care gets cheaper for a change: Speaking of market factors, Hood said scientific wellness should drive the cost of health care below what it is today. Currently, health expenditures account for more than 17 percent of the United States’ gross domestic product. That’s the highest percentage in the world, and it’s expected to rise even higher. “P4 medicine is going to turn that curve around. … I would predict that the data we’re getting is going to transform the health care industry,” Hood said.

Seattle becomes a center for wellness: The Seattle area already ranks among the top 10 regions in the country for biomedicine, but Hood said we’re well-placed to capitalize on trends in health care, thanks in part to Arivale, the Institute for Systems Biology and Providence. “We think we can make Seattle and the Pacific Northwest the center of scientific wellness,” he said.

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