The business of personal genomics just got a little more public.
A new California-based start-up named Navigenics, boasting some impressive managerial and financial backing, has just outlined its basic mission – to provide individualized genetic health profiles to help consumers “develop a plan for wellness and prevention.”
The company was co-founded by Dietrich Stephan, director of the neurogenomics division of the Translational Genome Research Institute (TGen) in Phoenix, Ariz., and David Agus, director of the Spielberg Family Center for Applied Proteomics at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, Calif.
Among the executives appearing in the introductory video on the company’s website is Stephen Fodor, founder, chairman and CEO of Affymetrix. Spokesperson Andrew Noble of Affymetrix confirmed that the company is a technology partner of Navigenics. "We have been working with the Navigenics team for quite some time and we are pleased with the quality of their approach to bring the power of genetic technology to personalized medicine," said Noble.
Stephan, who was a Bio-IT World “Best Practices” winner in 2005, runs one of the largest high-throughput Affymetrix genotyping centers in the country. In the video, Stephan explains the basic Navigenics premise: “You would get on the website and you would order a saliva collection kit. You would then return that to our laboratory, where we would sift through the entire human blueprint you’ve provided to us.”
Says Fodor: “I think there’s an opportunity for modern genetics to move outside the laboratory and move directly to consumers.” He adds, “The clinical information that comes back to the consumer is presented in a way so that the confusion is removed.”
The president and CEO of Navigenics is Mari Baker, formerly an executive-in-residence at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, one of the lead investors in Navigenics. Baker was previously the president of BabyCenter LLC, a website for parents-to-be, owned by Johnson & Johnson.
Vice President of Engineering Kamal Nabijee Dietrich Stephan was previously the group program manager for Apple’s online store, and before that directed Applied Biosystems’ eCommerce program. General Counsel Stephen Moore was formerly with Affymetrix, while Vice President of Editorial David Ansley was formerly science editor at Consumer Reports.
On its website, Navigenics states: “We believe that you are the owner of your genetic data, and it is our responsibility to safeguard that data while helping you apply it to improve your health. Navigenics will maintain industry-leading physical, electronic and operational procedures to safeguard the integrity and security of all personal genetic data and related information.”
The company has assembled a task force of experts to guide its practices in ethics, policy, law and security. They include Greg Simon, president of FasterCures and a former advisor to Vice President Al Gore, to advise on patient rights; and David Brailer, the former czar of health information technology. As recently reported in Bio-IT World, consumer genomics start-up 23andMe recently reached an agreement with Affymetrix rival Illumina.
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