Human Longevity chief says genome sequencing can help people cheat death

J. Craig Venter’s company tests healthy consumers, something that’s not been done before, he says.
By Susan Morse
12:04 PM
Human Longevity chief says genome sequencing can help people cheat death

CLEVELAND -- Genomics expert J. Craig Venter doesn’t mind scaring people by giving alarming statistics on death.

Forty percent of men and 24 percent of women between the ages of 50 to 74 years old in the United States will not reach the age of 75. A third will die of cardiovascular disease and another third from cancer, Venter said Monday at the Medical Innovation Summit.

Venter, co-founder and executive chairman of Human Longevity, helps clients cheat death through genome sequencing, a technology that’s becoming more mainstream but remains years away from becoming a regular part of what physicians do or what insurers reimburse if the patient is asymptomatic.

[Also: EHRs are holding troves of genomic data, too bad it's not always easily usable]

The problem with traditional healthcare, Venter said, is that it is only able to diagnose and treat people after they show symptoms.

Human Longevity tests healthy consumers, something that’s not been done before, he said.

Individuals can enroll in the company’s Health Nucleus X, or HNX for $2,500. The entire cost of the exam is $25,000, and includes a full body MRI, according to Forbes. Over the next five years, HNX Clinics will be available in about 300 locations around the world, the report said.  

[Also: Genome editing tools set to bring monumental change to healthcare]

Many physicians oppose the exam, saying it turns up false positives, something Venter refutes.

The HNX exam allows an individual to find out if any dark and potentially fatal illnesses lurk beyond a seemingly healthy body.

In one case, a man learned he had a tumor behind his breastplate and had it removed, Venter said. Had he waited six weeks, the tumor would have metastasized.

Another man, Venter said, referring to himself, had no elevated PSAs and no symptoms, and yet tests revealed he had prostate cancer. Venter has said he is now cancer free.

Genome testing through his company detects a high grade cancer rate in about 2.5 percent of people. These are individuals who have a tumor they don’t know about, Venter said.

About 24 percent of people are at increased genetic risk for Alzheimer’s; another 23 percent have a fatty liver. 

Genome testing also gets photos of the vascular system, where aneurysms light up the screen. The company finds a brain aneurysm in 1 percent of the people who come through. Most of those are under the age of 50.

A severe coronary is found in 12 percent of the population.

“It turns out the definition of health is pretty limited,” Venter said. “You look OK and feel OK. We can tell you if you’re healthy. We find things in 40 percent of supposedly healthy clients.”

Twitter: @SusanJMorse
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Read our coverage of the 2017 Medical Innovation Summit in Cleveland.
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