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For Long Life

With about $70 million in financing, Craig Venter has launched a new company called Human Longevity that plans to combine omic and clinical data to develop diagnostics and therapies for aging-related diseases and allow people to live longer, GenomeWeb Daily News reports.

"Our goal is to make 100-years-old the new 60," Peter Diamandis, a co-founder of the company along with Venter, tells Bloomberg Businessweek.

To start, Venter says, the company will focus on cancer. Patients at the University of California, San Diego, Moores Cancer Center will be offered the chance to have their genome, microbiome, and tumor sequenced and analyzed. While this will initially be offered to patients there at no charge, the New York Times notes that Human Longevity eventually wants to charge for that service.

Human Longevity has already purchased two Illumina HiSeq X Ten Sequencing Systems, and has an option for three more.

The company also plans to sequence up to 40,000 human genomes a year and increase that to some 100,000 per year.

"Hopefully," Venter says, "[HLI will] have data from half a million to a million human genomes, and the phenotype data, clinical data, and outcome data associated with that" within 10 years.

Such a database could help drug companies understand disease progression and uncover new therapies, the Wall Street Journal notes, as well as aid clinicians in tailoring patients' treatments.

If the effort is successful, "it will be the reference database that all of us will have to use," Venter says. The Journal adds that Human Longevity plans to make money by selling access to its data and by offering diagnostic tests based on the data it generates.

Additionally, the company has agreements with Metabolon and the J. Craig Venter Institute, and is interested in stem-cell therapies.

"It's a grand experiment on a scale that hasn't been done before," Johns Hopkins University's Bert Vogelstein tells the Journal. "And it's a huge gamble because you don't know if you'll find something major or minor."

Though Venter, the Times adds, "is known for groundbreaking science — and for his flair for publicizing his efforts — his track record in business is mixed," referring to Celera Genomics' inability to sell data it generated through sequencing the human genome.

Additionally, Harvard University's George Church tells ScienceInsider that Human Longevity may be taking on too much. Its plan "is all over the place," Church says.

Making one part of its plan successful would require "vast resources (and luck) to stay competitive," Church says, "and to do so in a multi-front battle would be even more remarkable."