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Naveen Jain demonstrating stool sample collection
Viome CEO Naveen Jain shows how a stool sample would be placed into a kit for an analysis of gut microbes. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle)

BELLEVUE, Wash. – Seattle-area entrepreneur Naveen Jain is ramping up Viome, a wellness monitoring service that’s the first venture brought to life by his BlueDot innovation factory.

Viome blends readings from your blood, urine, saliva and stool samples to develop a profile of your biochemistry, as well as the microbes in your digestive system, and then feeds that profile into a smartphone app that spits out personalized recommendations for diet and lifestyle.

That basic model is the foundation for a widening array of wellness ventures, including Seattle-based Arivale as well as Ubiome in San Francisco, DayTwo in Israel and at least half a dozen others. But Viome CEO Jain and his fellow executives are banking on a technology they’re licensing from Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico to analyze the human gut microbiome in unmatched detail.

The testing technology analyzes RNA from stool samples to determine the makeup of the microbial communities in your intestines, species by species, strain by strain – not just for bacteria, but also for viruses, yeast, mold, fungi, parasites and the other critters in your crap.

Over the past decade, researchers have found that the balance of gut microbes can play a part in determining overall health, and in maladies ranging from colorectal cancer and other intestinal problems to cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s.disease.

“Our gut is really the key to our health,” Jain told GeekWire at his Bellevue office.

Vie app
Viome’s Vie app gathers information about eating patterns, health symptoms and lifestyle, and blends it with biological tests to develop a personal wellness profile. (Viome via iTunes)

Viome isn’t far enough along to diagnose diseases, let alone cure them.

For one thing, microbiome medicine is still in its earliest stages. Scientists see signs that gut microbes influence the process that leads to Alzheimer’s, for example, but they don’t know which microbes play a part.

For another thing, Viome would need approval from the Federal Drug Administration to take on therapeutic tasks. Jain said the company’s researchers are working to get that approval, but in the meantime, Viome’s advice is limited to diet and non-medical lifestyle changes.

The advice can vary from person to person, even within the same family.

“It turns out, after my test, that I needed to be eating more complex carbohydrates, less lentils, less beans, less avocado. I would have never, ever guessed it,” Jain said. “Just in the last month since I started it, I have lost two pounds, and my blood glucose has come down. But my wife? Completely different! She needs to cut down on the bread and eat legumes and avocado.”

Wellness monitoring services are all over the map when it comes to levels of interaction, and the resulting price points.

DayTwo charges $299 for a pre-ordered tool sample kit and a personalized nutrition app. Ubiome works through physicians for clinical testing, but also offers sampling packages ranging in price from $89 to $399.for citizen scientists. Arivale provides a year’s worth of testing, tracking and personal coaching for $3,499.

Viome charges on a subscription basis, with fees set at $99 a month or $999 a year. That’ll get you four tests a year, plus an app that relies on artificial intelligence software to tweak your profile over time.

Jain said more than 300 customers are already enrolled in the service and 2,000 are on a waiting list, thanks to a pre-release marketing campaign.

Viome is the first company to enter the market from BlueDot, a venture that licenses technologies from research institutions and seeks to turn them into money-makers. Jain, who has been involved in a long list of ventures including Moon Express, InfoSpace, Intelius and TalentWise, sees BlueDot as an enabler for technological moonshots on the frontiers of health and energy.

BlueDot completed a $10.1 million Series A funding round last July, and Jain said some of that money has gone to fund Viome and its roughly 25 employees. Viome is headquartered in Cupertino, Calif., but it also has researchers working in New Mexico and AI developers working in New York, Jain said.

The BlueDot model calls for Viome to seek additional funding as the moonshot gathers momentum.

“All the chronic diseases don’t happen overnight, they happen over time. Alzheimer’s takes 15 years. Heart disease takes 10 years. Diabetes doesn’t happen overnight.,” Jain said.

“So our idea is, if you’re doing this longitudinal data, you’ll be able to predict a disease before you see any symptoms of it. And if you can predict it, you can prevent it. Our moonshot here is, can we create a world where chronic illness becomes a matter of choice?”

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