At first glance, the services are very similar. Viome analyzes a person’s microbiome to make food recommendations. Habit does a more simplified DNA test and focuses on user engagement and habit-creation by recommending recipes and nutrition plans.
Jain said the strengths of each company would complement each other. For now, he plans to continue operating both services independently and focus on their respective advantages.
If you ask Jain which is the best diet, he’ll tell you there isn’t one. At least, not one that’s best for everyone.
“Food is really to a large extent the personalized drug we take every day. Every food you take changes what is being expressed in your gut,” Jain said.
Viome has 100,000 users, a figure that will double with the Habit acquisition. Viome has raised $20.5 million to date following a $5.5 million round last July. Viome didn’t disclose what it paid to acquire Habit, but Jain said that Campbell had spent more than $60 million developing the service.
The two companies will employ around 160 people. Viome’s test kit and recommendations cost $399, compared to $299 for Habit’s.
Rather than looking just at your DNA, Viome wants to know about all the other organisms inside of you — bacteria, viruses, yeasts, fungi and molds — to tell you which foods to seek out or avoid. “Looking at the DNA doesn’t really tell you much, but looking at the gene expression gives you a fairly good idea of what is going on,” Jain said.
Viome licenses its technology from Los Alamos National Lab, which is run by the Department of Energy. The company is Jain’s seventh venture and the first to come out of his Bellevue-based BlueDot innovation factory. BlueDot looks for market opportunities for technology developed at leading research labs, with a focus on the health and energy sectors.
Best known as the founder and former CEO of InfoSpace, Jain also co-founded public records firm Intelius as well as Moon Express, which aims to take paying customers to the moon.
Viome and Habit’s high-tech approaches to health have ancient roots, Jain argues, invoking Hippocrates’ famous quote: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
Tech helps, of course.
“With a sequencing technology is becoming affordable, and AI becoming more and more powerful, now we are able to understand actually what is going on in the body,” Jain said.