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Brian Buntz

April 22, 2014

3 Min Read
After 23andMe's Setback, BaseHealth Hopes to Advance Genomics

A Silicon Valley-based startup called BaseHealth is hoping to usher in the second wave of consumer-focused genomics with its online physician-managed platform known as Genophen.

The development is a long time coming. The sequencing of the human genome "will revolutionize the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of most, if not all, human diseases," declared Bill Clinton--in 2000! Since then, the cost of sequencing has plummeted, and the speed of genomic sequencing has accelerated tremendously.

And yet the average patient throughout the world has yet to see much of a tangible result from the breakthrough. The field of consumer genomics was recently set back further after FDA pressured Google-backed 23andMe (Mountain View, CA) to halt sales of its $99 genetic test analysis.

Enter BaseHealth (Redwood City, CA) with its integrated health platform Genophen, unveiled Tuesday. BaseHealth describes Genophen as an integrated health platform, which works with genomic and medical data combined with a patient's lifestyle information. The platform accepts data from whole genome sequencing, which is performed by a CLIA-certified laboratory partner. The platform then integrates that data with patients' non-genomic data including clinical data, family history, and environmental and lifestyle factors.

Designed to engage physicians and patients in a collaborative fashion, Genophen can calculate risk levels for 40 conditions that can be prevented or improved through lifestyle changes. The platform provides concrete advice on how to curb risk for such diseases that is supported by peer-reviewed citations. Included in the list of 40 conditions are common diseases such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and some cancers.

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The Genophen platform has a "what-if" analysis feature that let's users estimate the impact of lifestyle changes on their risk of developing 40 common conditions. Image courtesy BaseHealth.

The CEO of the firm, Hossein Fakhrai-Rad, PhD, explained to Qmed how the technology could work with a hypothetical patient with a risk of developing Type-2 diabetes. Even though the condition is caused by genetic and nongenetic factors, most treatment approaches don't take a comprehensive view of the disease. "If you ignore genomics, and just look at lifestyle and medical data, at the end of the day, you don't have a complete 360-degree assessment," he said.

The Genophen platform, by contrast, works to provide such an analysis of Type-2 diabetes risk, and the chance of developing other diseases, by sending clinical data, family history, and behavorial data through an analysis engine to output personalized health assessments and recommendations.

The company believes that a physician should oversee the process and work with the patient to develop a custom action plan to minimize optimize their health--a scenario which might draw less concern from the FDA.

"Our recommendation is not directly to the patient. It is to the physician so he or she would be giving the advice," Fakhrai-Rad explains.

Brian Buntz is the editor-in-chief of MPMN. Follow him on Twitter at @brian_buntz and Google+.

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