NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – J. Craig Venter today unveiled a new company called Human Longevity Inc. that will combine human genome, microbiome, and metabolome data coupled with clinical information to fuel development of new diagnostics, therapeutics, and stem cell treatments for diseases related to aging.
In a media briefing today, Venter said the company will "change the way medicine is practiced," and will spearhead "a shift to a more preventive, genomic-based medicine model" that can lead to longer, healthier lives and lower healthcare costs.
Using $70 million in Series A financing, HLI initially plans to conduct genome, microbiome, and tumor sequencing on patients from the University of California, San Diego Moores Cancer Center and use their clinical phenotype and metabolomics data to create a massive database, Venter explained in a media briefing. HLI said the financing came from a small group of private investors. Though it didn't disclose the names of those investors, The New York Times reported today that Illumina was among the backers.
Venter said the initial financing should keep the company going for about 18 months. HLI is building a long-term facility in San Diego that will be completed in about a year, Venter said, and it is currently in temporary facilities.
The firm plans to license data and knowledge to pharmaceutical and biotechnology firms and universities for their own research programs, while developing new therapeutics and diagnostics and providing sequencing services.
The company has already bought two Illumina HiSeq X Ten Sequencing Systems, and has inked an option to buy three more. It plans to sequence up to 40,000 human genomes per year initially and ramp up to 100,000 per year. HLI said it will conduct the first clinical project to include germ line, human genome, and tumor genome sequencing, along with a range of other types of information from each patient.
As part of its efforts, HLI has struck an agreement with Metabolon, under which the NC-based firm will provide biochemical profiling of the genomic samples that HLI collects.
Venter is co-founder, executive chairman and CEO of HLI, which also has agreed to a research services collaboration with the J. Craig Venter Institute, of which he is founder and CEO. That alliance will cover proteomics, infectious disease diagnostics, and the human microbiome.
The company said that it will tackle cancer first. Every patient at the UCSD Moores Cancer Center will have the opportunity to have their genome, microbiome, and tumors sequenced and analyzed as part of their treatment, said Venter. Other diseases of interest include diabetes, obesity, heart and liver diseases, and dementia.
Venter noted that 13 years ago it cost around $100 million and took nine months to sequence his genome, but now that cost has dropped to around $1,000 per genome.
"We are scaling up to do tens of thousands of genomes in the same time frame that it took to do one," he said.
Through its agreement with HLI, Metabolon will characterize 2,400 chemicals in the bloodstream of 10,000 of the initial patients.
Venter said HLI plans to try to layer "the chemical data with the microbiome data, the human genome data, and most importantly the human phenotype data. We will be importing clinical records of every individual we are sequencing, so this will be one of the largest data studies in the history of science and medicine."
"Hopefully," Venter said, within 10 years 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."
"I view this as just the beginning, a starting point of this new field that some of us have been waiting for for a very long time, following on the first human genome 13 years ago," he said.
Among Venter's ventures is Synthetic Genomics, a genomics and synthetic biology firm of which he is a co-founder, chairman, CEO, and co-CSO. Though HLI didn't say specifically that it would collaborate with Synthetic Genomics, according to a FAQ sheet on its website, it plans to use "synthetic biology advances to repair and repopulate a patient's depleted and degraded stem cell population, returning those cells to a more healthy and youthful state."
In addition to Venter, HLI's two other co-founders are Peter Diamandis, chairman and CEO of the X Prize Foundation and co-founder and executive chairman of Singularity University, and stem cell biology researcher and entrepreneur Robert Hariri, who also will serve as company vice chairman.