Institute for Systems Biology, Providence Team Up for Preventive Care

Xconomy Seattle — 

The principles and practices of scientific wellness and personalized medicine developed over the last 15 years at genomics pioneer Leroy Hood’s Institute for Systems Biology will get what Hood says is a first application in a large patient population, through an affiliation with Providence Health & Services.

The 3.3 million Providence patients—in Alaska, California, Montana, Oregon, and Washington—will see their care transition from a focus on disease prevention to one of wellness preservation through a range of initiatives in partnership with the Institute for Systems Biology (ISB), the two Seattle-based non-profit groups announced Monday.

The 77-year-old Hood, a National Medal of Science winner whose inventions in DNA sequencing and synthesis were foundational to fields including genomics and proteomics, will become Providence’s chief science officer, while maintaining his role at the helm of the Institute for Systems Biology.

Hood described Providence as a leader in the shifting approach to healthcare. “This, combined with Providence’s vast network of hospitals, outstanding clinicians, and the rich collection of data from the more than 3.3 million patients they serve will help accelerate discovery of powerful insights into scientific wellness and disease,” Hood says in a statement. “Further, it will enable us for the first time ever to apply ISB-driven systems approaches for optimizing wellness and minimizing disease to patient care.”

Specific research projects in the collaboration include efforts to spot the transition from wellness to common diseases early on; long-term analysis of Alzheimer’s risk; and new “systems-driven” treatment approaches to fatal brain tumors.

The two organizations also plan to work closely on commercialization of personalized medicine technologies. The ISB has done so through spinout companies, including, most recently, Arivale, which is applying the scientific wellness approach on something like a retail basis, signing up individual patients for in-depth, data-heavy assessments of their health. Providence, meanwhile, set up a venture capital arm in 2014 to make investments in the industry.

Dr. Leroy Hood, center, speaks at Xconomy's Seattle 2035 conference last fall.

Dr. Leroy Hood, center, speaks at Xconomy’s Seattle 2035 conference last fall.

Underlying these approaches is the analysis of enormous quantities of anonymized health data, which can inform disease diagnostics and treatments. Hood and his team at the ISB have been refining these approaches, dubbed “P4 Medicine“—predictive, preventive, personalized, and participatory medicine—since he coined the term in 2003.

ISB has landed research partnerships with smaller healthcare organizations over the years, including Ohio State University in 2010, and PeaceHealth, a Pacific Northwest community health system, in 2012.

The ISB says the affiliation with Providence will bolster its research capacity—particularly through collaboration with Providence’s researchers and doctors, who are part of a system wide staff of 82,000 people—as well as its recruiting efforts. The relationship between the two organizations will be through Western HealthConnect, a secular offshoot of Providence, which is a Catholic health system. ISB will remain independent.

There is no shortage of ambition underlying this tie-up, which could also bolster Seattle’s standing as a hub for healthcare IT innovation.

ISB board chair Dave Sabey says in a statement: “This partnership will bring about the next generation of health care throughout one of the largest health systems in the United States.”