Leroy Hood, CEO of Phenome Health and co-founder of the Institute for Systems Biology will co-lead a new center at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging. (Phenome Health Photo)

Phenome Health, a Seattle research organization dedicated to what it calls a data-driven approach to human health and longevity, launched a partnership Wednesday with the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, based in Novato, Calif.

The partnership establishes the Center for Phenomic Health at the Buck Institute, under the co-leadership of Buck CEO Eric Verdin and Seattle bioscience pioneer Leroy Hood.

Hood founded Phenome Health in 2021 with the aim of understanding aging and detecting disease early by collecting multiple biological data points in individuals. That approach syncs up with the Buck Institute’s aim of extending human “healthspan,” the number of years of healthy aging, Hood told GeekWire.

“We now have the ability to follow and optimize the health trajectory of each individual,” said Hood, who is also Phenome’s CEO. “Once we initiate this on a widespread basis, it will lead to health care that’s focused on wellness and prevention rather than our current focus on disease care,” he added.

Phenome Health uses artificial intelligence to analyze DNA sequencing information along with “phenomic” data, such as electronic health records, self-tracking data from wearables, and clinical samples from the blood, saliva and microbiome.

The new partnership will first leverage Phenome Health’s technology to collect and analyze health data in people with type 2 diabetes. The team plans to enroll 50-to-100 people in the study by the end of this year and sign up more in 2024.

The partnership will also tap into the scientific expertise of the Buck Institute’s 24 principal investigators and enable testing of ideas and interventions in animal models of aging and disease.

With enough data, “we can think about therapies to reverse disease at its earliest, simplest stage, rather than when it’s a chronic disease and very complicated,” said Hood.

“The opportunity to form a Center with Lee Hood and his Phenome Health team will be transformational for the Buck,” said Verdin in a statement. “We believe combining the novel computational and human characterization engine of Phenome Health with the Buck’s expertise in geroscience, the biology of aging, has the power to redefine how we age and treat — or prevent altogether — the chronic diseases of aging.”

Hood’s ultimate aim is to initiate a study tracking the health data of one million individuals over ten years, a proposal he likens to the Human Genome Project. Hood, the co-founder of Seattle’s Institute for Systems Biology, developed technology that helped advance the Human Genome Project, earning him accolades such as the National Medal of Science.

Phenome Health will continue to operate in Seattle, though the new center in California will have similar capabilities. The nonprofit, funded by philanthropy from high net-worth individuals, now has about 15 employees.

Phenome Health is also nurturing two potential spinouts. One is centered around increasing the availability of technology to crunch multiple types of data. A second uses AI to generate what Hood calls “actionable possibilities” for physicians to provide to patients. Both are at very early stages, said Hood.  

Phenome Health’s ambition is to track and optimize participant health metrics across multiple parameters. (Phenome Health Image)

The new collaboration extends a vision for data-driven health Hood has pursued for years at the ISB and as co-founder of Seattle wellness company Arivale, which folded in 2019.

For about $6,000 per year, Arivale offered health services that included measurements of the gut microbiome, blood metabolites and more. Since then, AI has become more powerful and the costs of some analyses have come down, noted Hood.

As Phenome Health scales up, Hood anticipates that costs will further decrease, similar to how the Human Genome Project drove innovation that slashed the cost of DNA sequencing.

The new partnership began when Verdin read a report on “The New Science of Wellness,” by Scientific American Custom Media in a sponsored project for Phenome Health, said Hood. The two then spent six months discussing how to join forces.

Hood will become chief innovation officer and distinguished professor at the Buck Institute, but will continue to live in Seattle and operate his lab at the ISB.

Hood embarks on the new endeavor while in his mid-80s, after recently publishing a book, “The Age of Scientific Wellness,” co-written with Nathan Price, an ISB professor and chief scientific officer of Thorne HealthTech.

“My philosophy for a long time has always been that what’s good for anybody is to change their perspective every 10 to 15 years,” said Hood. “I have spent the last 23 years directing and then at ISB. I’m a little late, but I think this opens up some very interesting new possibilities for collaborations and interactions while still maintaining a deep tie to the ISB.”

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