NGS technology has enabled researchers to epidemiologically analyze DNA sequences by quickly deciphering mass quantities of genetic information in a short amount of time. [Heart illustration: iStock/SvetaP DNA double helix: iStock/Kagenmi]
NGS technology has enabled researchers to epidemiologically analyze DNA sequences by quickly deciphering mass quantities of genetic information in a short amount of time. [Heart illustration: iStock/SvetaP DNA double helix: iStock/Kagenmi]

Regional, non-profit healthcare delivery network AdventHealth (formerly Adventist Health System) announced it will partner with personal genomics company Helix to screen up to 10,000 patients for familial hypercholesterolemia (FH), an inherited condition that can lead to high cholesterol levels and potentially serious health problems.

The AdventHealth program, called WholeMe, is a first-of-its-kind genomic study in Florida that will seek to discover how an individual genomics impacts health—in particular, heart health.

“We believe personalized medicine that focuses on the whole person is superior health care,” said Daryl Tol, president and CEO of AdventHealth’s Central Florida division in a press release. “If we’re going to fulfill our promise to consumers to care for them as a whole person, with an emphasis on wellness, genomics must play a role. WholeMe is an exciting first step for AdventHealth and we’re thrilled to bring this project with Helix to Florida.”

Recruitment for the study will begin in July and falls under a program launched earlier this year by AdventHealth Orlando—AdventHealth Genomics & Personalized Health—an initiative that aims to provide comprehensive genomics testing, analysis, interpretation and genetic counseling services to patients.

Helix will support this program by providing its Exome + sequencing service to recruited patients to screen for the genes linked to FH. Patients who screen as at risk of developing FH will have results returned to them. Participants can also learn about other genetic factors that may influence their health such as lactose and gluten tolerance, magnesium and calcium levels.

“We are excited to leverage our end-to-end solution for large-scale population health in support of AdventHealth’s WholeMe Program,” said Justin Kao, co-founder and senior vice president of business development and partnerships of Helix in a prepared statement. “By combining clinical screening for actionable disease, long-term research driven by the breadth and depth of our Exome+ assay, and world-class consumer engagement tools that are proven to stimulate rapid enrollment, we believe that Helix and AdventHealth are poised to make a significant impact on precision medicine in Florida.”

According to AdventHealth the WholeME study will follow up with patient shown to be at risk of developing FH after six months, and will use their findings to develop programs intended to encourage patients to make potentially life-saving decisions about their health and lifestyle.

Helix launched in 2015 and one of the first products made available on its consumer marketplace were ancestry tools. The company touts its Exome + technology as a proprietary form of whole-exome sequencing, but one that provides a hundred-fold more data than other exome sequencing technology.

Early products on its marketplace were categorized to consumers as entertainment, such Vinome which matches your genetic profile with wines a consumer is more likely to enjoy and DNAPassport, a product that will analyze a person’s exome not only for ancestry, but physical traits, preferences and personality.

In more recent year, however, Helix has put more emphasis on wellness and healthcare offerings. It recently began working with life sciences company PerkinElmer to offer GenePrism: Actionable Insights, the first clinical-grade DNA test available to healthy individuals that analyzes all 59 medically actionable genes identified by the American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics (ACMG). And earlier this year it partnered with the Healthy Nevada Project on a similar study to to WholeMe which also screens patients for FH.

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