Image credit: Viome
While the world’s health scientists are currently laser-focused on understanding and finding treatments for the highly contagious novel Coronavirus, Seattle-based Viome is applying the power of technology to combat the rise of more familiar and more prevalent diseases.
“What we really have is an epidemic of chronic diseases,” says Naveen Jain, founder and CEO of Viome. “I’m not trying to minimize the number of people who have lost their lives due to COVID-19, but the fact is every single year we lose millions of people from cancer, millions of people from heart disease, millions of people from diabetes, and autoimmune diseases, and Alzheimer’s, and autism, and all these chronic diseases. To me, the greatest epidemic of humanity is chronic disease. I’m spending the next decade of my life to essentially understand exactly why we have these chronic diseases, because we are not born with them. There is absolutely no reason we can’t prevent and reverse chronic diseases.”
Viome’s mission is to prevent or eliminate chronic disease through highly individualized health plans based on gut health. The company’s direct-to-consumer Gut Intelligence Test uses technology to study every single gene in the human body at a biochemical level, and then explores how food can be used as medicine to prevent and even reverse chronic diseases in the future. Much of the immune system is controlled through the gut, Jain says. Once we understand how to balance our gut health, we can build up immunity to chronic and infectious diseases, possibly even eradicating them.
How It Works
Viome starts by analyzing microbiomes from a person’s blood and stool samples, which are processed at the company’s labs. An artificial intelligence engine, called Vie, uses metatranscriptomic sequencing technology, knowledge representation, and machine learning to analyze and correlate the sample data to information in the system’s vast databases, including links to other microorganisms, their functions, and individualized external data. It then can identify trends using statistics and decision analytics. The resulting information is fed back into Vie’s databases to expand the sample size and refine data. Test results and dietary recommendations are presented to the customer via the Viome app on a mobile phone.
The company provides a working model of precision medicine, says Jain. “We can tell you exactly what is upsetting your gut. You no longer have to guess what’s going on.” Viome’s AI analysis measures the activity of the microbiomes, including inflammation, which can indicate illness. From that information, the company identifies what foods a person should eat and why. It also suggests supplements that could be beneficial. The test can be repeated periodically to make adjustments as the body adapts to the suggested changes.
The technology Viome uses was developed in the Los Alamos National Lab and adapted to give Viome the capability to identify every organism in every sample, says Momo Vuyisich, Viome’s chief science officer. This approach wouldn’t have been feasible several years ago. The cost of DNA sequencing and RNA analysis was cost prohibitive and time consuming, but no longer. That access and the rise of IoT technologies has allowed greater innovation and earned Viome recognition from Frost & Sullivan as a 2019 Company of the Year.
Technology-Centric Disease Control
According to Vuyisich, Viome will be able to identify the digital signatures of all chronic diseases when the testing sample is large enough. The digital signature of each disease indicates what chemicals the body is or is not producing. Viome’s technology will work for chronic diseases that don’t have a genetic component, including Alzheimers, Parkinsons, and even cancer. Right now, the company is focusing on depression, IBS, obesity, and diabetes. “We can determine depression with 85 percent accuracy. We personalize the diet to adjust for that,” Vuyisich says.
According to Jain, the healthcare industry has not fully harnessed the capabilities of diagnostic technologies. Using digital signatures of diseases and continued AI, Viome’s hope is to eliminate many chronic diseases within a decade. Technology will revolutionize the medical field, but doctors and other health professionals will have to embrace the change.
“Science and technology will be at the center of the healthcare revolution,” Jain says. “Artificial intelligence has to be part and parcel of how medicine is practiced. It is man and machine working together. I have absolutely no doubt that in next decade, we as humanity will overcome this problem of epidemic diseases.”
- Learn more about Viome health intelligence technology.
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