J. Craig Venter, the superstar geneticist who mapped the first human genome in 2000, has a new challenge: decoding death. With a battery of genetic tests that can cost anywhere from $4,950 to $25,000, Venter believes he can uncover the deadly diseases lurking within seemingly healthy individuals.
"We do a full genome on everyone. Compare [that] to what is found in the clinic and we find [more data]," said Venter, executive chairman and head of scientific strategy at Human Longevity, a health firm where the goal is to stay ahead of aging and illness. He described the company as a "good detective … making discoveries, not diagnoses."
The firm's Health Nucleus focuses on four primary areas: cancer detection, cardiac disease, metabolic disease, and neurodegenerative and neurovascular diseases.
Venter's company has found serious detections in roughly 40 percent of patients, and many of the discoveries are found much earlier than they would have been found previously via traditional testing. They are finding cancerous tumors that are in phase 0 and 1 in patients who are experiencing no pain, whereas most people are often diagnosed in phase 4, where pain is prevalent and the disease is more difficult to beat.
"Thus far, for the first few thousands, we only saw people who considered themselves fully healthy," Venter said. "They feel good, they look good, but we're finding detections [in them]."