Dr Craig Venter, founder of Celera Genomics and one of the first to sequence the human genome, has teamed up with stem cell pioneer Dr Robert Hariri and X Prize Foundation founder, Dr Peter Diamandis, to create a new company using genomic data to target age-related diseases.
Human Longevity Inc. (HLI), which has attracted $70 million of initial investor funding, will conduct one of the largest human sequencing operations to produce a genetic database geared towards age-related health conditions. It will also develop cell-based therapies to address age-related decline in stem cell function.
'HLI is going to change the way medicine is practised by helping to shift to a more preventive, genomic-based medicine model which we believe will lower healthcare costs', said Dr Venter. 'Our goal is not necessarily lengthening life, but extending a healthier, high performing, more productive life span'.
The company has already acquired two sequencing systems from Illumina and has announced plans to sequence 40,000 human genomes per year from healthy and disease-affected children, adults and 'super-centenarians'. It hopes to increase this to 100,000 genomes per year.
HLI's initial focus will be on cancer. In a press statement, the company explains: 'While many are tackling this area using gene sequencing and other advanced technologies, there has not been a comprehensive clinical effort to combine germ line, human genome and tumor genome sequencing along with comprehensive biochemical information from each patient'. Dr Venter said cancer is 'just the first of a multitude of diseases we will be sequencing this year'.
As well as genomic data, HLI will obtain microbiome data from patients. The company hopes to gain a better understanding of what role microbiomes in the gut, mouth, skin and lungs play in a person's illness and will explore how the body's circulating chemicals contribute to their health and drug response.
'Between 1910 and 2010 improvements in medicine and sanitation increased the human lifespan by 50 percent from 50 to 75 years', said Dr Diamandis. 'Today with the emergence of exponential technologies such as those being pioneered and advanced by HLI we have the potential to meaningfully extend the lifespan even further'.