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Arivale co-founder Lee Hood (right) with Gabriel Spitzer, host of Sound Effect on KNKX, at an event hosted by Town Hall Seattle and the Institute for Systems Biology. (GeekWire Photo / James Thorne)

How old are you? It’s an easy question to answer unless the person asking it is healthcare innovator Leroy (Lee) Hood. Hood thinks that it’s not your chronological age that matters — it’s your biological age.

Speaking at an event Monday night hosted by Town Hall Seattle and the Institute for Systems Biology, Hood laid out his vision for how scientific wellness, pinned to your biological age, would define medicine in the 21st century.

“If you are younger than your biological age, you’re in great shape. And the younger your biological age, the better off you are. If you’re older, you should do something to reverse it,” Hood said.

“We check this against Arivale patients who had diabetes. They were six years older than their chronological age. Against cardiovascular disease, they were three years older, and against the people that most fanatically use the Fitbit, they were three years younger,” he added.

Arivale is a Seattle startup, co-founded by Hood, that is putting this idea to work. Arivale pairs personal coaching with health data analysis to boost the wellness of its clients — seeking, over time, to lower their biological age. The company aims to quantify wellness by collecting and analyzing health data.

The point of identifying biological age isn’t to make people feel older than they are. It’s to put them on a path to become biologically younger.

“In the future, we’ll be able to deal with most clients’ diseases before they ever manifest themselves if we follow the correct path of scientific wellness. We’re already doing this for Alzheimer’s disease, and early results really look spectacular,” Hood said.

Hood is a pioneer in the field of genomics who worked on an early sequencer that helped make modern-day genome sequencing possible. He co-founded Seattle’s Institute for Systems Biology and is the chief science officer at Providence St. Joseph Health.

From left: Gabriel Spitzer, Lee Hood, Amy Compton-Phillips and Tala de los Santos. (GeekWire Photo / James Thorne)

Dr. Amy Compton-Phillips, executive vice president and chief clinical officer for Providence St. Joseph Health, said the work that health data pioneers like Hood are doing will help hospitals find better ways to measure outcomes.

“How do we ask the right questions and measure the right answers so that we can actually deliver what people want, which is better health and better lives?” Compton-Phillips said.

Data-powered wellness may also aid in improving care in developing countries. “If they can take that data and convert that into health intelligence, then we can make decisions based on that data,” said Tala de los Santos, the head of the diagnostics program at PATH, which creates health technologies for developing countries. Gabriel Spitzer, host of the Sound Effect radio show on KNKX, moderated the talk.

Both Compton-Phillips and Hood said that data-powered technologies couldn’t overcome health care challenges without the human touch.

“All of this technology is not to replace a physician,” Hood said. “It’s to make their relevant, actionable, knowledge democratized so that physicians can use that knowledge to make a difference for these patients really effectively.”

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