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Hood Lays out 100K-Patient Longitudinal Research Agenda to Spur Wellness Industry in Next Decade


Originally published Jan. 28.

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — Over the next 10 years, healthcare entrepreneur Leroy Hood is planning to integrate the principles of preventative and personalized care to advance a wellness industry that he hopes will overshadow the current healthcare industry focused on intervening once something goes wrong.

Hood, founder of the Institute for Systems Biology, has long promoted the adoption of technological and scientific advances that will enable the dissolution of our reactive healthcare system and implement P4 — predictive, preventive, personalized, and participatory — medicine. Based on the tenets of P4 medicine, a term he coined, Hood is getting ready to launch a study in the next few months in which researchers will enroll 100,000 patients in good health and follow them in a “Framingham-like” trial for some 20 years. The aim of the project will be to gain a better understanding of the myriad factors contributing to the development of diseases, and develop tools and strategies to predict early who will become sick so doctors can intervene.

At the Personalized Medicine World Conference here this week, Hood projected that within a 5- to 10-year time frame, “every patient will have billions of data points,” and the life sciences industry will have developed the tools to “reduce that data dimensionality to a simple hypotheses about optimizing wellness and minimizing disease.”

This large longitudinal study is a step toward achieving his vision. By enrolling 100,000 healthy individuals and following them for many years, researchers would be able to track those who stay healthy and those that get sick. Moreover, by collecting different kinds of information on these study participants, investigators would be able to identify patterns in individuals as they transition between a healthy state and sick state.

“You'll be able to mine for metrics of wellness, which we've never been able to do before,” Hood said at the conference. “Some will transition into disease, and again, if we have a lot of data, we'll be able to for the first time look at the early origins of disease. We can begin to understand mechanisms that would allow us to divert the disease trajectory back to the wellness trajectory very early on.”

As part of this study, investigators would perform a complete genomic workup on participants and track results from a variety of other complex tests, such as EKGs. Trial enrollees would also measure and record their own respiration and heart rates. Three times a year, researchers would assess participants' nutrition, analyze their gut microbiome, and perform organ-specific checkups, for example on the liver and brain.

The project will start by enrolling 100 healthy individuals. Hood expects to launch the study in March this year, at which point he expects all the assays and analytics will be set up. The next milestone for the project will be for researchers to enroll 1,000 individuals, then 10,000, and then 100,000.

“As we go along, we're going to learn how to integrate MDs with coaches, who will specify and delineate the nature of the actionable opportunities for the patients themselves,” Hood said.

In planning for this study, Hood believes that there are “enormous” amounts of actionable information within all the data points being collected on patients. He expects that the actionability of the collected data will only increase upon integrating all of it for each patient. “What we've found is that the variants that exist in the genome, when played against clinical nutrient analysis give us actionable potential for optimizing various kinds of things,” Hood said.

Hood enumerated three goals for this project: create data sets for each study participant that can be used to optimize his or her wellness and minimize disease; mine the data for healthy individuals to outline the metrics for wellness; and track participants' trajectory between wellness and sickness. “And the database that encompasses all of these opportunities … is going to create enormous innovation … in the wellness area,” he predicted.

He predicted that the findings from this project will spur companies and help launch new products on the market. “If you think about it, this project encompasses every aspect of P4 medicine,” Hood said. “Virtually every one of the measurements I've talked about” collected as part of the study “is on a Moore's Law decline, so that in a 5- to 10-year period the assays will cost a [fraction] of what they cost today.”

A big focus of the project will be to create international social networks enabling data sharing, so that the actionable information from the study can benefit as many people as possible. Hood noted that he and his team have had preliminary discussions with stakeholders in different countries in this regard.

Ultimately, through this project, Hood said he hopes to promote “the kind of innovation that … in 10 years is going to create a wellness industry that will dwarf the current healthcare industry.”