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Startup LifeOmic Seeks to Merge Sequencing With Clinical IT

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CHICAGO (GenomeWeb) – Startup LifeOmic, which offers gene sequencing and related informatics technologies, is less than a year old, yet it seems poised to go where few health IT companies have gone before: aggregation and analysis of both clinical and omics data to support actual patient care.

Indianapolis-based LifeOmic is a software and services company, offering secure cloud-based health IT platforms to healthcare organizations that might not have a high-performance computing core. The company also offers whole-genome sequencing on two Illumina NovaSeq 6000 machines.

"We're doing variant calling. We're doing interpretation, tertiary analysis to clinical report, and then analytics," said David Fuller, chief operating officer and one of three founders of LifeOmic.

Based on its name, LifeOmic might sound like a life sciences or bioinformatics operation, but it seems to be positioning itself as a health IT company, one with more of a focus on clinical practice than on research.

"We know that that convergence [of omics and health IT] is going to happen. It's just a matter of how does that get structured organizationally and also [in terms of the] tech stack? What does that end up looking like? We really feel like there's a major contribution that can be made on that health IT side in order to bridge that gap," Fuller said.

"We align ourselves very closely with that clinical utility story," he continued. "It can support research. Our goal, though, is to permanently persist that data and make it available for downstream clinical use."

That is why the LifeOmic executive team made sure that its platform had connectivity to electronic health records built in, in the form of a Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources interface. This, according to Fuller, pulls in information from multiple sources to help with comparing individual patients to populations or with looking at small cohorts within a clinic.

That is where genomic data comes in. "We bring genomics into the picture mainly because it's a new and emerging data set that needs to be included," Fuller said. "We would love to see — and I think the community would, too — omic data sets with the same level of clinical utility as diagnostic imaging has."

That community Fuller speaks of includes academic and nonacademic healthcare systems, informatics professionals, advocates of precision medicine, and interdisciplinary collaborations such as the Indiana University Precision Health Initiative.

LifeOmic is developing the data commons for the IU Precision Health Initiative, and two of that project's partners, Indiana University and the Regenstrief Institute — a university-affiliated health IT research organization — are deeply involved in LifeOmic operations. In September, IU and Regenstrief agreed to give LifeOmic a blanket license to various pieces of intellectual property and access to faculty members in exchange for minority stakes in the company.

The majority shareholder in LifeOmic remains Indianapolis tech mogul Don Brown, a nonpracticing physician who graduated from IU School of Medicine. In December 2016, around the time LifeOmic started, Brown donated $30 million to establish the Brown Center for Immunotherapy at IU School of Medicine to, in part, support precision health.

Fuller came with Brown from Interactive Intelligence, a maker of cloud-based telecommunications software. Brown started that company in 1994, took it public in 1999, then helped engineer a $1.4 billion sale to competitor Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories in 2016.

"He's decided he wants to do something transformative and disruptive in health IT," Fuller said of Brown. The disruption will come in the form of interoperability to break down data silos that prevent actionable information on specific patients from making it to the point of care, as well as in the form of high security and advanced analytics, according to Fuller.

"In the bones, it has to have full architecture for complete consumer-grade security and complete machine-learning modeling to do right," Fuller said.  

He noted that LifeOmic's chief information security officer came from the financial sector and that the company has hired two developers to specialize in machine learning. Another new hire is a lead mobile app developer who came from Salt Lake City-based Health Catalyst, a major player in health analytics and intelligence; LifeOmic recently leased office space at the University of Utah Research Park to go with its Indianapolis headquarters and a location in Morrisville, North Carolina.

The mobile component fits with a new strategy to support patient-generated data. "One reason why we opened up the Utah office is to attract more mobile app developers out of both health IT and out of the consumer mobile space," Fuller said. "That is one of our pillars: a consumer and patient-facing mobile app strategy brought to health IT."

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