NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) —Institute for Systems Biology spinout Arivale plans to provide customers with personalized health recommendations based on a variety of molecular and lifestyle datasets, including their genome sequence.
The company, co-founded in early 2014 by ISB President Lee Hood, CEO Clayton Lewis, and ISB Associate Director Nathan Price, said today that it raised $36 million in a Series B funding round that was led by venture firms Arch Venture Partners and Polaris Partners. Maveron, which led Arivale's $3 million Series A round, also participated in the latest round.
Based in the Pioneer Square area of downtown Seattle, Arivale currently has 19 employees and plans to grow to more than 50 by the end of this year. The new funding will go towards marketing, tests performed on clients, and growing the staff.
The firm's scientific advisory board boasts a number of big names in personalized medicine and genome technology, such as Eric Topol of the Scripps Research Institute, Robert Green of Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, and George Church of Harvard Medical School.
The company promises to provide its clients with "a scientific path to wellness." According to Lewis, "People come to Arivale because they want to understand what their current baseline health is, they want to optimize their wellness, and they want to avoid diseases."
The firm's approach builds on a pilot study for ISB's 100K Wellness Project, results from which Hood presented at a conference this spring. For the pilot, which was conducted last year, 107 individuals had their genomes sequenced and received regular blood, saliva, and fecal sample tests to measure metabolites, protein markers, and the gut microbiome. They also wore fitness trackers to follow their activity and sleep patterns, and they reported their nutrition. Based on the results, a nutrition-trained coach provided them with individualized health recommendations, or "actionable possibilities," to optimize their wellness and help them avoid disease.
In many cases, recommendations came out of the integration of two types of data, Hood said. For example, a number of participants had very low levels of vitamin D, and an analysis of their genomes identified six variants that are associated with decreased uptake of vitamin D. "It looks like individuals with many of those blocking variants require significantly more levels of vitamin D to bring them back to the normal level," Hood said, and only the combination of the two results led their doctors to prescribe extra vitamin D.
Correlating different data types statistically on a big scale "will provide us the ability to create metrics to measure wellness, both psychologically and physiologically, so that in the future, these quantitative metrics can be used objectively to optimize wellness," he said.
Hood said that 70 percent of the pilot study participants followed the advice they were given, which is "in large part due to the effectiveness of the coaches." ISB researchers are in the midst of writing up the study results, which they plan to submit to a journal within the next couple of months.
ISB has decided to grow the number of participants in the 100K Wellness Project through strategic partnerships with healthcare systems, companies, and other research organizations, and Arivale is one of these partnerships, according to a company spokesperson. The institute itself will focus on "its core scientific strengths in discovery science, which include systems medicine, new technologies, and big data analytics."
Arivale will provide its clients with essentially the same services that participants of the pilot study received, all of whom are invited to become Arivale customers.
For a fee of $2,000 per year, clients will have their genomes sequenced and get a FitBit activity tracker. Every four months, they also undergo a variety of blood and saliva tests and have their gut microbiome analyzed. In addition, they are assigned a coach, a registered dietitian, for monthly health recommendations.
"Because we have this longitudinal data on them every four months, we are getting a science-based snapshot of what has been the impact of the changes they have made in their lifestyle choices," Lewis said.
However, the company will not report medical genetic results from their genomes that predict an increased risk for a specific disorder, such as cancer, restricting itself to genetic information related to nutritional wellness and lifestyle. For example, while it will report mutations associated with hereditary hemochromatosis to a patient's doctor — which happened during the pilot study for a patient who also had high levels of iron — it will not report mutations in the BRCA genes.
Lewis said there are "regulatory limits of what we can share out of the gate," but the company expects these regulations will evolve over time.
Arivale does not only cater to essentially healthy individuals, though. A number of clients who signed up at a pre-launch in Seattle two weeks ago, for example, have chronic diseases, Lewis said.
The company is initially offering its services only in Seattle and, starting this fall, in San Francisco, but it has not determined yet how many customers it will take on this year. Its first clients are expected to obtain results within the next few weeks, and the firm plans to expand into other markets in 2016.