Mayo Clinic takes aim at consumer genomics

'The digitization of the genome will unleash entrepreneurs and developers'
By Mike Miliard
10:48 AM
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Mayo Clinic

The Center for Individualized Medicine at Mayo Clinic is investing in and partnering with a new startup, developing tools and technology to put consumers in control of their genomic data.

[See also: Genomics pose 'daunting' test for EHRs]

San Francisco-based Helix was founded by Illumina Inc., Warburg Pincus and Sutter Hill Ventures and is funded to the tune of $100 million.

By enlisting an array of partners such as Mayo Clinic, Helix seeks to empower consumers to discover insights into their own genomes.

[See also: Mayo Clinic launches genome work]

"Genomics is reaching an inflection point in cost, volumes and knowledge, creating a significant opportunity to unlock information that is currently not widely accessible to individuals," said Jay Flatley, CEO of Illumina and Helix's chairman, in a statement. "Helix and its founding investors are committed to creating a neutral platform at the highest quality standard that will work with partners to accelerate consumer adoption of genomics."

By converting genetic information to digital data stored in the cloud, Helix will provide affordable sequencing and database services for consumer samples brought through third-party partners, eventually leading to an array of consumer applications, officials say.

After being sequenced, individuals can then manage their data and explore an marketplace of on-demand apps developed by Helix's partners, offering additional insights.

Mayo's initial focus will be on developing apps focused on consumer education and health-related queries.

"Mayo Clinic wants to be the trusted partner for consumers who want to learn more about their health through genomic information," said Keith Stewart, director of Mayo's Center for Individualized Medicine, in a statement.

"We believe we have a responsibility to educate and engage the public, sharing our knowledge broadly with a greater audience includes those who aren't normally exposed to our practice," he added. "There's a void in consumer space for trusted partners to lead the efforts to ensure people receive the right information at the right time to make informed health decisions involving genomics."

In addition to Mayo, Helix announced it will partner with LabCorp to develop new analysis and interpretation services, focused at first on medically actionable genetic conditions, to consumers through the Helix platform.

Helix hopes other partners will also develop apps focused on areas such as genealogy, fitness and inherited traits to enable insights related to an individual's genetics, officials say.

"We believe that the digitization of the genome will unleash entrepreneurs and developers to create new applications for consumers in a way never before possible," said Noah Knauf, managing director, healthcare at Warburg Pincus.