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New consumer health and patient care models are sweeping healthcare, and Helix is aiming to be the genomics platform of choice as the industry evolves with new, personalized technologies.
The San Francisco-based startup, a spinoff of genetic sequencing and genotyping giant Illumina, is among a handful of genetics-oriented vendors represented at HLTH, a new healthcare innovation conference.
HLTH was founded by former Google executives and fintech trade show promoters Jon Weiner and Anil Aggarwal, and conceived of as a sort of mini-Davos gathering of high-level thought leaders from various sectors of healthcare and health IT. Organizers say they secured $5 million in venture financing for the startup conference.
Among the organizations sending representatives are insurance payers; health IT, pharmaceutical and genomics vendors; large employers; healthcare provider systems; and government agencies. TechTarget, publisher of SearchHealthIT, is a media partner of the conference.
Set for May 6 to 9 in Las Vegas, HLTH diverges from the typical healthcare trade show paradigm in that the exhibition floor isn't the central piece.
HLTH is structured around a series of business-to-business networking sessions, a hosted buyer program in which potential customers get free entry to the show if they meet with exhibitors and sponsors, and a hackathon with $80,000 in prizes.
According to organizers, 3,000 participants are expected, with more than 300 speakers and dozens of panel sessions with orchestrated tracks on such topics as innovation, changing roles of payers and providers, patient care models, healthcare innovation investing, and transforming health data into value.
Helix CEO Robin Thurston said the HLTH conference is a good opportunity for the consumer genomics company -- which is still introducing itself to the market -- to make business-to-business connections and generate some brand buzz.
Consumer genomics ecosystem
Helix's business model is to create a genomics app ecosystem by forming partnerships with dozens of vendors and healthcare providers, which use genetic information from consumers that Helix collects and sequences, with the consumer's authorization.
"We are creating an entire end-to-end supply chain for running next-generation sequencing for large-scale health partners," Thurston said.
The apps guide users on health, nutrition, wellness, lifestyle, ancestry and other issues.
Helix sequences the DNA data, for $80, at its lab, then stores it with what the company says are rigorously secure encryption procedures and shares relevant portions of customers' DNA with the app vendors.
Genomics and providers part of new patient care models
In addition to consumer applications, Helix has partnerships with some major healthcare providers, including Mayo Clinic and Geisinger. Thurston said patients can take their Helix-sequenced DNA to the providers, via their EHRs if they choose, to help guide new patient care models.
"With any of our [healthcare provider] partners, the goal specifically around your health information is that even though it's initiated by you, they say to you 'you have predisposition to this potential disease,'" Thurston said. "Now you want to transfer it potentially into your medical record so the doctor can ... either order more tests or use that information."
Wide range of attendees
Other genomics vendors exhibiting at or sending speakers or panelists to HLTH include Color Genomics, Freenome, Guardant Health and 23andMe.
Also represented are major tech companies like Google, AWS, Facebook, LinkedIn, HP, Microsoft, Samsung, Nokia, Fitbit, Uber, Lyft and Garmin Health.
Big consumer companies include Walmart, CVS Health, Comcast, Bank of America and PepsiCo.
Insurers like Aetna, Optum, Humana and UnitedHealth Group are also at HLTH, as are health IT and telemedicine vendors such as Change Healthcare, Allscripts, AthenaHealth, Teladoc, American Well, and others, including many startups in new patient care models.
Participating healthcare provider systems include Geisinger, Hackensack Meridian Health, Scripps Health, Sutter Health, Boston Children's Hospital and Mount Sinai Health System.
Wellness and benefits technology vendors such as Limeade, Castlight and Welltok are represented.
Government officials from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services also are attending.